The opening section of Psalm 105 -- the lectionary’s primary psalm selection for this coming week -- praises God for the wonderful works and miracles he has done, and also lifts up God’s covenant with Israel. That covenant is a binding, “everlasting” promise that we are told will last “for a thousand generations.” Such a commitment requires complete faith and trust -- but as team member Leah Lonsbury reminds us in the next installment of The Immediate Word, it’s a fool’s errand to place a similar degree of faith and trust in human institutions, even the church. The extent to which we trust in our security, even in situations where we take safety for granted, was gruesomely brought home this past week by the downing of a commercial airliner over eastern Ukraine. As evidence mounts that the plane was targeted by a missile, and that Russia may be directly or indirectly responsible, an outraged world is faced with the question of how to respond -- particularly European governments which have been skittish about enforcing sanctions over concerns about their dependence on Russian energy. Will the West treat Putin like a pariah, or will governments find it expedient to continue ignoring the Russian proxy war in Ukraine?
As Leah notes, keeping silent in the face of injustice is one of the main ways we break covenant with one another... and there were other grim examples in last week’s headlines, highlighted by an explosive affidavit filed by a former lawyer and archivist for the Minneapolis archdiocese charging that the archdiocese’s hierarchy engaged “in a widespread coverup of clergy sex misconduct,” that “the church used a chaotic system of record-keeping” to help conceal the background of guilty priests who were reassigned, and that repeated warnings about the dangers of this policy were ignored. In addition, new documents emerged detailing the extent to which General Motors kept silent and misled federal investigators about their knowledge regarding faulty ignition switches which led to numerous deaths and injuries. Leah suggests that this pattern is not limited only to large institutions -- all of us are tempted to keep quiet and break covenant with others whose welfare should be our primary concern. By contrast, God never breaks covenant with us -- despite our continuous pattern of willful sin and disobedience. Here’s a preview:
What We Fail to Mention
by Leah Lonsbury
Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11b, 45b
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -- Martin Luther King Jr.
In this week’s passage from Genesis, Laban establishes a relationship of trust based on family ties and loyalty with Jacob, but it doesn’t last for long. The two men strike a bargain at Laban’s suggestion, and in a seemingly generous move he offers Jacob the chance to set the terms. Jacob gives of his labor and himself out of love for Rachel and trust in Laban. Laban answers Jacob’s earnest attempts to uphold their relationship and agreement with craftiness and betrayal, and it all hinges on what he fails to mention.
Yeah... that’s not really the way we do things around here. If you really want Rachel, that’ll be another seven years of your life, please.
Psalm 105 sings the praises of a God who is faithful and active “among the peoples” (v. 1). This is a God who is fully present, easily known through deeds and “wonderful works” (v. 2), and mindful of the covenantal relationship that holds it all together. This “everlasting covenant” (v. 10) is God’s straightforward and transparent gift to the people. What they see if what they get. There’s no small print or detail that God fails to mention. And as a result, God’s praises are on the people’s lips, their hearts seek God, and they give thanks. This is how covenant works.
What details do we leave out? What are our sins of omission -- the things we can and ought to do and say but don’t? How does our failure to be fully present and forthcoming, faithful and trustworthy do damage to our relationships and break the covenants we have established in our families, churches, communities, workplaces, and world? What is the effect of our failure to speak and act?
Is their sleep also filled with dreams of God and angels?
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