Thoughts for Thursday 3rd September 2020

Psalm 149; Exodus 9:1-7; 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

 

Thursday 3 September

 

Psalm 149, which like Psalms 96 and 98, begins with ‘Sing a new song to the Lord’ (Cantate Domino), is one that has been interpreted in a number of ways. First, the two-edged sword at verse 6 has been given mystical meaning i.e. as one that divides the temporal from the eternal. Second, it has been given an eschatological meaning, which is to say that it is all to do with what will happen at the end of time. The sword in this scenario is to be used in one last battle. And third, these twin blades have been given spiritual meaning as ones that are able to be used against both inner and outer demons.

 

The more logical interpretation, however, to my mind, is a more militaristic one, and that this psalm is actually a call to arms.

 

The passage from Exodus is exotic, and by that I mean that, although the story of Moses is one of great importance with Christianity (the African American spirituals, for example, would be inconceivable without it), it does still sound strange to our ears – in the same way, I would suggest, that ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ does as well. This is not to belittle Exodus by any means. Sources for The Arabian Nights include Jewish as well as Arabic, Persian, Indian, Greek and Turkish ones; and the two best-known stories within the collection, purportedly told by Scheherazade, actually have a Maronite Christian origin: Aladdin and Ali Baba.

 

What makes the ‘Plagues’ so exotic – and memorable – are both the elements of magic, and the repetition as in, ‘Let my people go . . . But he was stubborn and would not let the people go.’

 

2 Corinthians was, in large part, an attempt by Paul to raise money for the poor in Jerusalem. The passage from chapter 12 we have today is best read, therefore, in light of that. Paul was eager to point out that (although it would be helpful for him in his negotiations with Church Leaders in Jerusalem once he got there), any money raised would not be for him, but for charity.

 

This, of course, is something which is ever-topical. And maybe it’ll be even more so post-coronavirus in what might well be a very different ecclesial landscape.

 

Let us pray:

 

(by Thomas Merton)

 

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone,

 

Amen.

 


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