Presumption—it’s hard to avoid falling into that pit. Whatever we’ve gotten used to thinking, we presume really is and should be. Psalm 9 should give us pause then because it reminds us that God may see things quite differently.
Years ago a middle school friend pointed out one of my presumptions. She had been worrying about the “bad” grade she had made on a test. “What did you make?” I asked. “B,” she replied. “B? That’s not a bad grade,” I said, trying to encourage her. “It’s not good enough for you!” she answered. Ouch! She recognized my unspoken presumptions about academic skill and privilege, based on my arrogance and fear. Arrogance because I thought I should make better grades than my friends, and fear because I didn’t know who I would or could be without a string of As on my report card. I shared her indignation: I had already betrayed my friend, omitting her from my imagined circle of academic equals. Had I ranked love and friendship below success? That wasn’t who I wanted to be.
Is our national report card better than that of other nations? Must we be best or worthless? Loving without presumption is not easy. We will have to learn the gifts, rights, and suffering of those who first cared for our continent. We will have to unlearn our fantasies about the brave and religiously superior colonists who founded our country. We will have to unlearn slippery notions of separate-but-equal. We will have to unlearn some heroic tales about World War II, the Cold War, the space race, and the competition for nuclear and economic superiority. We will have to unlearn rhetoric that excludes, demonizes, dismisses.
All the nations are only human, Psalm 9 says. That includes us. May we trust first the One who delivers us from false judgments.
Rise up, O Lord! Save us from our delusions. Amen.
As children of God, we will face opposition; but God will ultimately give us victory. The psalmist cries out to God asking for deliverance from oppression at the hands of his enemies and concludes the psalm with the assurance that God will do so. Tradition credits this psalm to David, who as a boy had risked his life against Goliath based on that same assurance. Goliath mocked the Israelites and their God, but God gave the victory. Paul recounts his sufferings for the gospel, yet he is not overcome or in despair, for he trusts in God. Jesus calms a storm and is disappointed that the disciples show so little faith. Why do they not believe in God’s deliverance? And what about us? Do we still believe in God’s deliverance?
Read 1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49. What “armor” do you use to protect yourself? When have you found the courage to put aside your armor because it was holding you back?
Read Psalm 9:9-20. When have you been provoked to cry out, “Rise up, O Lord?” On whose behalf did you cry?
Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13. How have you commended yourself as a servant of God?
Read Mark 4:35-41. How do you find the quiet center when the storms of life rage around you?
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