Praying the Psalms in a Broken World 7/29/2012

Psalm 14

Ephesians 3:14-21

Praying the Psalms in a Broken World

July 29, 2012

I heard a radio interview this week by Bill Moyers with Christopher Hedges who took the last two years to travel to places in the US which seem to be some other the more Godforsaken places in our country. When I read Psalm 14 about God-forsakenness the connection seemed clear to me.

Hedges talked first about a place very close to us – Camden, New Jersey.  He said that Camden is now the poorest city in the country, having no industry at all. Campbells Soup is gone and Radio Shack is gone. The biggest industry is the illegal drug trade. He said they have more than 100 open air drug markets in Camden.

He also talked about Pine Ridge, South Dakota – an Indian reservation. He said it is illegal to sell alcohol on the reservation, but the town just south of the reservation has 4 liquor stores and they sell thousands of bottles a day to people from the reservation, who live in dire poverty.

It struck me listening to the interview that he was making an important connection between two of the topics that have been near the center of our conversation and concern over the past few months – poverty and addiction.  Hedges was illustrating how communities that have been abandoned by resources and industry tend to fester with addiction and problems for the people who live there.

Psalm 14, our psalm for this morning, puts those problems into perspective as well. We often think about addiction as being an individual thing, and expect every individual to carry out the fight against addiction for themselves. There is some truth to that perspective, in that each person has responsibility for themselves and needs to do everything they can to stay clean and sober.

But Psalm 14 points to the ones who are Godless as being the ones who take advantage of poor people – who prey on them like monsters. The psalm asserts that, despite appearances, God stands with the poor. God stands with the people of Camden and the people of the Pine Ridge reservation.  God is with them helping them through the hardships that they are facing. God is with them, a refuge and a strength.

Hedges found hope among the people in trouble in these places; he interviewed people of faith who with God’s help were making a stand against the drug trade in Camden and the alcohol saturation of Pine Ridge. There are individuals who are taking on the godless forces that have allowed these places to be abandoned, who are trying to create safe places for young people, and drug-free schools, and institutions in those neighborhoods.  It is a hard battle, but these folks have faith that God is indeed with them as promised in the Psalms.

 

Our young people in Mt Airy this week worked on that battlefront – helping to build a youth center that could be a refuge for young people who might feel abandoned by our society because of the difficulties in the neighborhoods.  At the same time, in the intensity of the program, we our own young people had to face some of the trouble in their own lives, some of their own difficult struggles.

And they too discovered when they really faced their struggles squarely that they had a force with them much stronger than the struggles they face. They felt God working alongside them, encouraging them in their community building and in their deepening relationships with the Spirit.  It’s an amazing process to realize how God works in our lives if we only allow the Spirit to work with us.

If we are smart we will follow the young people in their growing relationships and trust of the Living God in Christ. It may lead to some unsettled times in our own lives, some recognition of stuck places in our lives that we would rather not face. We may find the strength to join together with them and with each other to proclaim the truth of the amazing power and presence of God, the active deliverance of the Living God.

I want us to hope big, to dare big, to trust big that God in Christ will actually come through for us. What would it mean to really put your trust in the One who is on the side of all who do justice, the One who allies with the poor, the One who challenges all the places of distrust and lack of resolve in our lives? What would it be like to decide to say yes to God in Christ today, this summer, this year?

Let’s take the first step toward claiming our own live in and through God’s love as we sing “My Hope is Built.” If you would like to build your life on that solid foundation, take a step and come forward to pray at the altar of the Living God this day.

Responsive Hymn: 368 My Hope is Built