S (Scripture): Psalm 44
We have heard it, God, with our own ears;
our ancestors told us about it:
about the deeds you did in their days,
in days long past.
You, by your own hand, removed all the nations,
but you planted our ancestors.
You crushed all the peoples,
but you set our ancestors free.
No, not by their own swords
did they take possession of the land—
their own arms didn’t save them.
No, it was your strong hand, your arm,
and the light of your face
because you were pleased with them.
It’s you, God! You who are my king,
the one who orders salvation for Jacob.
We’ve pushed our foes away by your help;
we’ve trampled our enemies by your name.
No, I won’t trust in my bow;
my sword won’t save me
because it’s you who saved us from our foes,
you who put those who hate us to shame.
So we glory in God at all times
and give thanks to your name forever.
O (Observation): Victory is declared for God’s people, here. The psalmist calls on the stories from the ancestors. Stories of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to God’s people.
One must read this Psalm closely to see that the author does not take the credit for the victory: this is God’s doing.
Perhaps this is a Psalm about the return of God’s people back to the Promised Land after exile in Babylon. Or, it could be a story about how God’s people were first settled into the Promised Land after returning for centuries of slavery in Egypt. Either way, God leads the action.
This last statement is paramount. God leads. The people are not relying on their swords or bows. God leads.
A (Application): Today, I speak as part of a 3-person panel at Middle TN State University regarding a community action in October 2017, in which several hundred folks gathered against the hateful ideology of white supremacists who wished to hold a demonstration in Murfreesboro. I was just one of many folks who wished to gather in the name of love to hold an alternative demonstration. Not to confront the whole supremacist group, but to get ahead of the narrative: white supremacist ideologies are not welcome.
Police were present on the square in downtown Murfreesboro, where the permit was granted for this group to speak and hold their demonstration. The white supremacists never showed up. Delayed by the security checkpoints down in Shelbyville, where they held their first demonstration of the day, they decided the effort was not going to come to fruition in Murfreesboro. Some folks still showed up on the Murfreesboro square…but way, way less than anticipated.
So…should we have just stayed home? I think not. I think God stirred up something in those of us who gathered. I think we came together as a people, as a city. And I think God caused each of us to be a bit more convicted about what role each of has to play in this city.
Many people from many faiths and backgrounds came out on October 17, 2017, under the umbrella of what we called “Murfreesboro Loves: a Community Action Against Hate.”
We sent a message: you can say what you want, but we will not welcome messages of white supremacy or bigotry in this town. Yes, they can choose to go elsewhere and share their messages, but we hope to be a beacon of light that shines far and wide.
I am humbled that my family and I were part of something so moving and terrifying and solidifying. I am most grateful that no one was hurt that day. I am also saddened that in 2017, we still had to gather against such hate.
I hope God continues to watch over us and grant peace as we beat our swords into plowshares.
P (Prayer): Lord, keep us hopeful in you, in your ways. Keep us from relying on weapons and relying more on You. Amen.