An American Psalm: A psalm of repentance, reconciliation, and hope
(Let all who will, come. Let all who seek the face of God, seek together. It may be that God has not abandoned us entirely. It may be that God will still hear us and have mercy on us.)
Father, we are estranged from our neighbors. We look askance at our sisters and brothers, and those of our own household have become our enemy. There is no patience or compassion. There is no willingness to understand. Loud mouths fill the airwaves. They ridicule without ceasing. They demonize some and lionize others and then ask, “Why are the people divided?” We build walls and look at one another as from under a rock, ready to strike or hide. The smiles are clean gone from our faces. Thoughts of retribution clutter our minds. Fear and anger clog our hearts. We find no footing against the threatening tides.
Yet you have been merciful to our fathers, and our mothers have rejoiced in your deliverance. They turned to you in the time of tribulation. They prayed for help when disaster loomed before us, and you heard them and became our strength. We are the beneficiaries of your covenant with our parents.
When our economic structure crashed like a tall tower bringing on great depression throughout our country – when jobs could not be found, and hoards went begging in the streets, our parents turned to you, filling your house with praise and desperate prayers. You heard our cries and inspired our leaders with good ideas. You gave the people the heart to work hard, trusting in you and in their neighbors.
When the soil was lifted into mile-high walls that heaved against our farms and towns, uprooting crops, choking livestock, and smothering the weak, our fathers turned from their careless abuse of the earth, and you sent the rain, settled the dust, and made the land fruitful once more.
When the winds of world war threatened from the east and the west, our people joined hands and hearts, bowed before you, asking for strength, and went to battle trusting your righteous judgment. And when you gave us victory, we acknowledged your hand. We flocked to your house with joy and energy as never before.
Yet in the streets you confronted us with the hypocrisy and injustice of the segregated society we had built. Though we resisted mightily, you empowered the oppressed among us to overcome through great struggle and sacrifice, and you permitted the oppressor among us, through shame and repentance, to find the way to true freedom and wholeness among all Americans.
For all this we are truly thankful. In the Sanctuary of the Lord, we celebrate your faithfulness. We cannot believe that you have brought us so far only to cast us aside. Yet when we remember that you are just, that you show no partiality to one people over another, we are terrified for our nation.
Help us to befriend our neighbors near and far. Let us treat our brothers and sisters with patience and compassion. Let our homes be workshops where we learn to listen with understanding and refuse to ridicule or demean. Tear down the walls between us and let us greet one another with smiles. Unclog the arteries of mercy in our hearts. Dissolve the dreams of retribution that clutter our minds. Loosen the bonds of fear around our lungs and let us breathe freely. Give us, as free people, the courage to accept our responsibility to turn from the path of destruction.
O God, show us your love by confronting us with our sin. Do not let us escape the truth, for to do so would be to escape you. Keep at us, God. Do not let up. Humiliate the big mouths. Embarrass the smug. Do not grow weary with our slow learning. Teach us once more to turn to you to ask for help, to seek guidance, and to knock on the door behind which true freedom awaits.
Then your praise will be ever on our lips. Then we will boast not in our treasures nor in our weapons, nor in our science. Instead, we will worship you alone – the One who gives the value to treasure, the victory to the army, and the knowledge to science.
Then the world will know that the creator of the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham and Sarah, is the one God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ through whom all who love you may come into your saving presence. Amen.
(May all come. May all who seek the face of God, seek together. May God not abandon us entirely. May God still hear us and have mercy on us.) HEM 2008