Neither death nor life…

File:Ruger AR-556.jpg

“Happy are the people who know the festal shout.” (Psalm 89:15)

My eyes fell on this verse as I opened my Bible this morning. I have been reading news and am deeply discouraged over the cruelties, sorrows and follies of the world. The shooting in Texas lies heavily upon my heart. It calls to mind a time when I had to warn our ushers to lock the doors and call the police if a certain individual arrived. Such an action is against every notion of what it means to be church. I struggled, recently, when the fire marshal made us change the lock on our front door. The proposed solutions bothered me for days until I figured out why: they required turning a handle to enter the church instead of our current door that had a simple handle needing only to be pulled for the door to swing wide.

The doors of the church should open wide. But that particular Sunday morning I was telling the ushers in no uncertain terms to close them. It felt like a betrayal of all I believed. But there was also fear. The possibility was unlikely; but the risk so terribly high, the consequences so troubling to imagine.

Now here are those fears on the national news.

“Happy are the people who know the festal shout.”

I heard Michael Lewis on Fresh Air yesterday and read his article Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White Housein Vanity Fair last night. The headline will probably keep some people from reading it, but you shouldn’t let it stop you; it’s important. We have belittled government for so long, we have forgotten how important governance is. No one wants to pay for it. We have been told the government is “them” who want to take away “our” money. But I am grateful that there were firefighters in Santa Rosa last month when my mother and my brother and his family had to flee their homes in the middle of the night. The roads were crowded with those in flight, but I am grateful that “we the people” had paid for roads that were public rather than private. The news this morning included information that insurance companies had provided private fire fighters to protect wealthy homes. I understand the economics of that action – but it reflects our failure to be a true democracy where the ‘demos’, the people, are equal in their rights as well as responsibilities. And, perhaps more burdensome to me, it reflects our failure to love our neighbors as ourselves.

“Happy are the people who know the festal shout.”

Apple is in the news with the revelation that they are holding $250 billion offshore on the island of Jersey because they don’t want to pay taxes on it. I understand the economics of that, too, but I don’t understand the abandonment of the social contract. They thrive because of the freedoms, creativity and scholarship of this country. There would be no Amazon without UPS and no UPS without the interstate highway system – not to mention the Arpanet, the public universities and defense contracts – that “we the people” paid for. There would be no Google if people couldn’t drive on public roads, make us of public water and sewer, create products in a society where innovative ideas would be recognized and protected by public laws, and live in safe communities because fire inspectors came to check the front doors.

I was irritated that our door had not been a problem to any of our previous inspectors. And I was irritated that we had to give up the candles that decorated the alcoves in our sanctuary. But “we the people” decided that we didn’t want another Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Chicago, you remember, once burned to the ground. So we pay the taxes that allow us all to thrive. Companies used to think of themselves as good citizens. People used to think of themselves as good citizens. Now, it seems, it’s all about me. My right to own an assault rifle, 15 magazines, and 450 rounds of ammunition. My right to march with torches in the night, chanting Nazi slogans. My right to keep “my money” (that I was able to earn because of public roads, utilities, schools, and on and on).

“Happy are the people who know the festal shout.”

Disconsolate as I am, my Bible falls open to this verse. There is lament in this psalm, to be sure. The poet cries out against all the suffering, shame and loss they have experienced. We hear the bitter question: “O Lord, where is your steadfast love?” But back towards the beginning of the psalm is this verse whose voice lingers:

“Happy are the people who know the festal shout.”

And that little verse pushes me to remember the shout of Easter morning, “The Lord is risen”, and the congregation’s response: “He is risen indeed.”

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;

PS Our front door is actually damaged in some way so that, even when it is “closed”, it stands slightly ajar. It won’t be great when winter comes. But I rather like it.

Image: By SenseiAlan from Muscle Shoals, US (Ruger AR-556) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


About dkbonde

Pastor, Los Altos Lutheran Church
This entry was posted in American Society, Democracy, Hope, Psalms, The Common Good and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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