High River United Church of High River, Alberta

A Message to Connect - June 4
Grace and Peace to You,

Susan’s Reflections on Psalm 34

 It’s lovely that we can turn to the words of the psalms and find promises of comfort and protection, but as a privileged white woman I wonder how I dare claim the need for such words of comfort. I am well aware that generations of enslaved and persecuted peoples have turned to these psalms and found the comfort and courage they needed. I am also aware that the words of these psalms have been used to continue oppression and racism. White people for too many generations have been pleased that those oppressed and enslaved could find comfort in these words – and we’ve left it at that. That’s how we end up with a president who waves the Bible for a photo-op without even understanding what the Bible really says about justice for the oppressed or knowing that Jesus would have been standing with the protestors, just as he stood with the lepers, Samaritans, prostitutes and others who were pushed to the edges of society.


It is lovely that I can find comfort and hope in the words of the psalms and enjoy the beauty of phrases such as "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" but what I really need are the words of verse 14: “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”   But what if I am one of the wicked as named in the psalms and not the righteous. There is much evil that exists in our society – evil in the form of racism, sexism, and biased reactions against LGBTQ and others. It is evil that we have become so used to that we no longer notice it. Peace is a good wish – but peace can not be a way of silencing the voices who are calling white society to account. Peace can only come after we have truly faced what this evil means and how we are complicit in it.


My deepest prayer is that we will listen – truly and fully listen to the stories of black, Indigenous and LGBTQ people – and that our hearts will ache and break and be changed as we come to understand what they face on a daily basis. My deepest prayer is that this will not be one more time when the protests pass and everyone goes back to “normal” – a normal that allows racism to be acceptable.


I’m glad that the psalm promises refuge – but as a white privileged person I am not the one who needs refuge. How will I and how will our church challenge ourselves to be a refuge for those who face bias and racism each day? Prayer is good, but it must be coupled with action.


David’s Reflections on Psalm 35

…Say to my soul, “I am your salvation”. (vs.3b)

This P\psalm is yet one more prayer for deliverance from enemies. The theme is familiar and the chorus is resounding. No new news here. However, I stopped when I read the words of this prayer that ask God to tell the writer’s soul that God is its salvation. Something in those words landed with me in new way. The word for salvation in Hebrew is ????? (yeshu'ah) which derives from its root meaning relief as in the relief one experiences upon having been rescued from an enemy, trouble or illness. … Say to my soul, “I am your yeshu’ah”. God is the rescuer of my soul.


I believe there are moments in time when our soul is in danger. Its pure essence is attacked by those who abuse, who endanger our well-being, and chip away at our good stature. These wounds are deep and can pose a mortal blow to our whole being. Serious stuff this is. Today’s Psalm is a prayer for God to throw a life-line to our soul and rescue it by pulling it out of such danger. Salvation by God provides the soul with safety and relief. It is truly comforting to recognize that God’s salvation reaches us at the depth of our soul.


Psalm 35 concludes with these words, “Great is the LORD , who delights in the welfare of his servant.” One of my favourite scholars takes the word welfare and roots it in the Hebrew word shalom (???????). James Mays defines shalom this way, “…that wholeness of self with others and God which belongs to the good and normal state of life.” (Mays, Interpretation: Psalms, p.155) I really like this definition of shalom. It is to this state of shalom that the soul is delivered having been rescued from the enemy. God delights in this state of “welfare” for God’s servant!


So now, we reach deep into our faith tradition as expressed in Psalm 35 in order to discover the loving and compassionate God who, in times of trouble, throws our soul a life-line, pulls it out of danger and restores it to shalom all of which spells relief. When this happens, our whole being sighs with relief. We allow rest to come over us, we lay down and sleep, knowing that we are safe again in the presence of a loving God. And when we stir from rest, we offer praise all the day long for God’s saving, rescuing love.


May our prayer be that we ask God to say to our soul, “I am your salvation”. May our response simply be a huge sigh of relief.


With love and blessings,

Rev. Susan & Rev. David

High River United Church – a community of help, home & hope

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.” A. Heschel






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