I sing your praises before all other gods” sounds quaint to the modern reader, like something a tunic-wearing, harp-strumming psalmist sitting on a mountain gazing down at the temple in Jerusalem might sing. It sounds quaint until we remember all the other gods before whom we so often bow. The words get stuck in our throats when we begin to recognize the gods we turn to when we find ourselves in trouble.
A god is anything that we give primary place in our lives. What gets our best attention, priority use of our money, and our deepest devotion? What do we thank when things go well and on what do we rely when we are in trouble? That is our god. In my community, status through career and income is our god. Participation in sports, clubs, and the arts paves the way to entry to excellent universities so that children can land great jobs. Often that participation takes precedence over church participation and involvement, which doesn’t hold the same promise of upward mobility.
Education is valuable, and a good job is an asset. But they are not eternal; God’s love lasts forever. The downward spirals of the US stock market, the raiding of pension funds by corporate executives, and the collapse of the real estate market remind us that even the most upwardly mobile fall prey to the vagaries of the global economy.
This psalm is a song of defiance. It’s a song of defiance against all that promises us what only God can give. We need to sing this song of praise more than God needs to hear it. We need to sing this song to ground ourselves once again in God’s love for us.
God who is above all, we confess that the shining promises of wealth and status often distract us. Draw our attention back to you. Amen.
We sometimes struggle to believe in the power of a God we cannot see. The psalmist declares that God is greater than any earthly king and will preserve us in the face of our enemies. However, in the time of Samuel, the Israelites demanded a human king to lead them into battle, as other nations had. God was not enough for them. Paul admonishes the Corinthians not to repeat this mistake. We should not think that what we can see is the ultimate reality. What we see is temporary; what cannot be seen is eternal. Perhaps Jesus is teaching a similar idea in this somewhat troubling passage in Mark. Jesus is not against family, but he is emphasizing that human families are temporary; spiritual family is eternal.
• Read 1 Samuel 8:4-20. How influenced by culture and neigh-
bors are you? How do you attempt to keep your priorities aligned with God’s reign?
• Read Psalm 138. How do you evaluate the “gods” in your life? How do you recognize when those gods have gained control of your life?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1. When life’s circumstances over-
whelm you, how do you avoid losing heart?
• Read Mark 3:20-35. Who is your spiritual family? Whom do you identify as your brothers, sisters, mother and father?
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