Dear Christ Church Family,
Sometimes, our more destructive emotions just get the better of us. We know, in these moments, that to feel what we feel is not good. We can even tell that they make us feel less healthy. At the very least they keep us from knowing joy. Is there a way to get free of them? Psalm 109, most surprisingly, can help us do that.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
Addressing the repulsive Psalms; or the “Noxious Nine.” I really tried to avoid Psalm 109 today. I focused instead on every other reading available, other than this one, including the very worthy passages on The Annunciation of Jesus’ Conception to Mary. (I still recommend reading those readings sometime today; just click on The Annunciation link.) I even tried to write about this Psalm while ignoring the verses listed in the parentheses. I couldn’t do it.
The problem for me, as it is for most, is that Psalm 109 is in that notorious group I tend to refer to as The Noxious Nine; the nine Psalms that are so full of hate, and violence, and bloodthirsty vengeance, that’s it’s really hard to find anything redeeming about them. Many of the other Psalms will have a verse or two about ”destroy my enemies,” but these nine, (Pss 7;35;58;59;69;109;137; and 140), are so consumed by it as to be almost unreadable without getting nauseated.
So why are they here? What possible positive example or purpose do they serve? Just this: The Psalmists, in each case, are using the language of prayer as a way of freeing themselves from their hate. Hate and rage are enslaving emotions. They cripple our humanity and render us useless as servants of God. But, these prayers transfer anger and rage from the human heart to God. They yield the act of vengeance to God’s will. These prayers are an act of submission to the Divine prerogative, “Vengeance (justice) is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19) They are a recognition that vengeance is not ours to take. Only God can do that justly.
In these times, when emotions such as hate and rage and a desire to “destroy my enemies” are appearing all around us, we can have moments where it can truly be difficult to be a faithful disciple of Jesus who said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44 See also Rom. 12:9-21) It is for times like these, moments like this, that such prayers as Psalm 109 were made. If these emotions are starting to enslave your thoughts and cripple your ability to serve God with a joyful heart, surrender them. Pray this Psalm. Full throatedly. let it pray you, and, with the Psalmist, relinquish it all to God. God will take that burden from you and set you free to serve others with a “clean heart.” And “a new and right Spirit.” (ps 51)