The Psalms of Advent, Dec. 1, 2022
Today, you are invited to light a candle with me as we move to the third Psalm of Advent, Psalm 72, and reflect on verses 1-7, and 18-19. The entire psalm can be found here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2072%3A1-7%2CPsalm%2072%3A18-19&version=NRSVUE. Listen for a repetition in these verses, 1-3, and verse 7, being aware that this psalm is an ancient prayer for a new monarch:
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness. . . .
In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
Though justice is repeated twice, the word that resonates with me is righteousness, repeated four times. The Hebrew word is synonymous with honesty, justice, righteous acts, righteous deeds, and vindication. This psalm, possibly prayed publicly when King Solomon ascended the throne of Israel (970 to 931 BCE) after his father, King David’s, death, became a prayer for all future monarchs of Israel.
The Franciscan priest, theologian, and contemplative author, Father Richard Rohr, writes in his book, The Universal Christ, “There is no such thing as a nonpolitical Christianity.”* How I know that to be true. I have walked the tightrope in preaching, discovering how quoting the scriptural words of God and Jesus Christ in a sermon has led to the accusation of being “political” or of “meddling.” I will save further discussion of Rohr’s statement for another time, other than to say that this particular Advent psalm, 72, is a political prayer. This psalm doesn’t claim that “might makes right” but that “right makes might.” It is a prayer for a king, a president, a senator, a messiah, a prime minister, to practice righteousness, for the welfare of all the people, including the poor, and to establish peace, “until the moon is no more.” When did any of us last hear such a prayer for any leader? Or even pray one?
Righteousness is the quality of being morally correct and justifiable. It is an attribute of kingship found in Middle Eastern religions and Abrahamic traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. A righteous person implies that the person has been judged as leading a life that is pleasing to God. Leading a life that is pleasing to God. Isn’t that an attribute we long for in our leaders, no matter what name we use for God? I wonder why so many of us, then, so easily dismiss it.
I admit that I am not very familiar with this psalm, nor am I a scholar of the psalms. But in this Advent Season of 2022, in a world affected by unjust wars and political division where so many leaders lack any semblance of righteousness, where the poor the world over remain poor, where actions toward peace and justice seem less important than who wins what, this psalm calls me to pray for all leaders, everywhere, to be the kind of king prayed for in this psalm. It also reminds me to be careful about what leaders I follow and who I support. If they are not “righteous,” then how faithfully am I living?
Blessings ~ Rosemary
*Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ, Convergent Books, 2019
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