Thoughts for Tuesday 26th January 2021

Psalm 46; Genesis 45:25-46:7; Acts 5:33-42

Psalm 46 is one at the heart of which we have this image of a ‘river that brings joy to the city of God’. And this is the same imagery as that employed by John of the Apocalypse in the closing chapter of the Bible where we have, ‘the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, and coming from the throne of God’.

I remember reading a biography of Shakespeare by the author of A Clockwork Orange (1962), Anthony Burgess, who also co-wrote the script for Franco Zeffirelli’s television series Jesus of Nazareth (1977) starring Robert Powell. Published in 1970, what I remember most about it, apart from its brevity, is Anthony Burgess speculating about whether or not William Shakespeare might have had a hand in translating the King James Version of the Bible.

The main piece of evidence he had for this, which although it was quite compelling was also purely circumstantial, was the 46thpsalm. Have a look at it in the KJV, and what we find is that, published in 1611, when Shakespeare would have been 46 years old, the 46th word of the psalm is ‘shake’, and the 46th word from the end (discounting the final Selah, which is thought to be there for musical direction purposes only) is ‘spear’. It’s almost, Anthony Burgess wrote, as though Shakespeare has left us his signature there in the Biblical text!

In more recent times, Barack Obama, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in 2011, when he was US President, read Psalm 46 at a memorial service for those who’d died. There could hardly be a more fitting reading than that. Beginning with ‘God’, the psalm then talks about ‘times of trouble’, ‘if the earth is shaken’, ‘and mountains fall’. It speaks of ‘violence . . . at early dawn’; ‘nations are terrified . . . kingdoms are shaken . . . earth dissolves.’ But then it goes on to say that God, ‘stops wars all over the world; he breaks bows, destroys spears.’ ‘Stop fighting,’ God says.

Reading it there at the site of the atrocity itself out in the open air, that reference to ‘a river that brings joy to the city of God’, well, even watching it on television people couldn’t but think of the mighty Hudson River.

And in lieu of a prayer today, I wondered about Alan Jackson’s lyric:

Where were you (when the world stopped turning)

Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
That September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or workin' on some stage in L.A.?

Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children, they lost their dear loved ones
Pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?

Did you burst out with pride for the red, white, and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran

But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
That September day?
Teachin' a class full of innocent children
Or drivin' down some cold interstate?

Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor?
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset for the first time in ages
And speak to some stranger on the street?

Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Stand in line to give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?


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Page last updated: 26th January 2021 8:46 AM