Does the King God in the sky rain down blessings if we ask long enough?
Psalm Reading: Psalm 123
For Sunday, Nov. 13 , 2011: Year A—Ordinary 33
I like early Jackson 5 as much as anyone. Michael is telling a young girl that he is going to teach her all about love and it is as easy as 1, 2, 3; or simple as do, re, mi—a, b, c—1, 2, 3, baby you and me, girl! This is catchy and sweet, and all, but of course very naive. And taken in the context of MJ’s life history of relationships, well….inadequate.
1, 2, 3…
Psalm 123 is sort of like that.
It is a worship song, sung by post-exilic pilgrims to their Lord, the king of heaven. It describes the posture of the relationship. They are down on the ground, where there is suffering, scorn and contempt, looking up to the sky for mercy. The Lord King is on the throne in heaven looking down. Or maybe the Lord King is ignoring them, verse 2 says, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us.
There is the expectation that the Lord King will likely not take notice of them or at least not grant them their request immediately.
Supplicants turning their eyes toward heaven to pray for mercy from the assumingly benevolent God King is a nice image. It is a simple and concrete understanding of the Creator/created relationship, but it is naive and inadequate. It is an un-evolved understanding of God.
God is not up in the sky deciding to rain down mercy or woe upon us. The God of our faith is down on the ground, in and among us as we suffer. I don’t know how much real scorn and vicious contempt I experience, but even in existential despair, this works for me.
A Second Naiveté
We know that prayer is not like picking up the phone and calling King Jesus, but the song is fun and funny and actually does get at something— not so much about God, but about a people’s very real desire to communicate and a faithful dependence that a benevolent Presence is there.
Perhaps Psalm 123 could be approached in the same way.
The Hardest Question
Given the complex and mysterious nature of our understanding of what we mean when we say “God,” is it helpful to continue to perpetuate the myth of the King God in the sky that will rain down blessings if we ask long enough?