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Lpts.eduCaution: May Cause Drowsiness Proverbs 24:21-22, Psalm 76 Caldwell Chapel, October 4, 2013 – Domestic Violence Awareness Month Heather Thiessen Prayer for Illumination Revealing God, along with your Word, give us your Spirit and Wisdom, that our ears may hear you, and our hearts understand you, and our souls turn to you. Amen. Proverbs 24:21-22 (NRSV/JSB modified) Fear the HOLY ONE and the king, And do not mix with those who change, For disaster comes from them suddenly; And the ruin both decree who can foreknow? One brief note of explanation, because some people will wonder how these texts came to be part of a service that has, as its background, concerns about violence against women: I have come under the influence of powerful people who proclaim that the revised common lectionary is . . . not a tool of the angels. Therefore, the texts of the day comes from a daily lectionary, that moves the reader through the Bible in lectio continuo fashion; Psalm 76 is the psalm for October 4. This is a song in praise of God that celebrates God’s use of divine power to rescue and protect the oppressed from the warfare of their enemies. The Jewish Study Bible points out that the text is “not well preserved,” so there are uncertainties in the text. The translation is mine, where it departs from that source. Psalm 76 – Pray, listen for a word from God – 1/ [for the leader; with instrumental music. A psalm of Asaph, a song.] to deliver all the oppressed of the earth. 11/ The fiercest mortals shall acknowledge You, 12/ Make vows and pay them to the HOLY ONE your God; all those around shall bring tribute to the Awesome One. who strikes dread in the kings of the earth. May God add a blessing to the reading of the Word. Thanks be to God. We have been using a lot of Benadryl at my house lately. The people who live in my house, and the animals, too – the domestic ones, our pets – have all been taking this medicine. It stops our suffering from the symptoms of allergies, which seems beneficial. Benadryl is powerful medicine. But as many others here probably know, since I assume mine is not the only domicile with allergy sufferers in it, Benadryl also has a powerful and well-known side effect, namely that it causes drowsiness. It’s so good at this, in fact, that sometimes doctors will prescribe it for that very reason, for people who just need to chill out a little bit. There’s a warning on the package, to be cautious about this drowsiness when driving or operating machinery – because a drowsy person with a power tool in hand, like a car, or a skil saw, is a potential menace, she could hurt It occurred to me – while reading Psalm 76 – that this caution sign might belong on other things that may cause drowsiness. Like the Bible. Seriously. Because the Bible is powerful medicine if there ever was any, and it does happen, sometimes, that when we read the Bible we go on cruise control – we move through its familiar passages with barely a glance, we feel so at ease around the metaphors that we barely pay attention to what they say or mean in this particular verse or this particular context, or notice that they
might mean several different things at once, as they might – upon reflection – in the Proverbs text we heard just a moment ago – We are so used to pairing up God and king, for instance, that we might nod off instead of asking ourselves whether the same people ought to fear God as ought to fear a king, whether this is a text that supports the theme of God’s royalty or one of the many in the Bible that challenge and question the relationship of God and kings; we might get too cozy and comfy to ask ourselves whether kings and God ruin the same things or different things, to ask whether the ones who change – who might be called rebels, or dissenters, or disobedient, depending on who is doing the reading – are the same people when seen from God’s perspective, as they are when seen from the king’s. An alert reader might
even wonder whether a king could be one of those changers not to associate
with, like if a king was trying to change . . . God. Because God is not always a king in the Bible. In fact, in the Psalm we just heard, God is more like an animal – a lion, in fact, who has set up precisely the kind of shelter that a lion might find homey and comfortable to curl up in and keep watch from. This fierce feline God is the one who is known in this
That would be hard to notice if we have been lulled to sleep by a translation that emphasizes the domestic angle of this set-up, maybe because a “hut” or a “den” seems a little beneath God, translators seem to prefer to see God settling into a “dwelling” or an “abode,” which sounds a good deal more
Either way, though, whether house or shelter, it’s secure. If we had to sleep in it, as we would have to if the dwelling were our own home, or if the shelter were where we were celebrating the Biblical harvest Festival of Shelters, Sukkot, we would feel safe doing it. Because in this Psalm, the place where God has set up living quarters is a place of peace, is named peace, Salem. It’s no
surprise that God is known there, in peace and well-being.
Because isn’t it easier, really, to know God when things are peaceful and pleasant, easier than when there is violence going on?
Violence bewilders, confuses, disorients. Violence can obscure our awareness of God, assault our confidence in God’s presence, batter our belief, at least in most of the real-life contexts available to us. People who are forced to endure trauma, or who must live under siege, constantly on the alert for signs of impending violence, as do people who suffer from domestic violence, can feel taunted by the question asked by the enemies in another Psalm, where is your Not even everyone’s house of prayer. A church may not be a safe place at all, where a person under siege would find shelter, even for the mind and heart, or the self, let alone the body. Perhaps the church, too, needs a caution sign Because the churchiness of the church, the almost-too-good-to-be-true atmosphere created when everyone is wearing their good clothes and their good faces and their good reputations can hypnotize us, make us believe that the
facts of life stop being facts at the door of the sanctuary, that a magic circle around our sacred space somehow excludes the violence that lays claim to rule October is “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” Domestic Violence is an archaic word, but we still use it, and it’s a good reminder: domestic violence
is the violence we’ve taken into our homes, down-sized for home use, adapted to the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom; we think first of intimate partner violence, but domestic violence can include violence against children, and violence against parents and other elders who have become vulnerable. National statistical facts are that about one in four people, 85% of them women, suffer How must we change what we say, and how we say it, from the pulpit, or from the pew, when we wake up to the meaning of those numbers? What must change when we wake up to the stark fact that those numbers mean that at any given worship service the “we” who are present, the “we” who come into this as well as “we” who are bystanders, who say sincerely “we didn’t know” – The place of peace where God is known, where God has set up shelter, is
explicitly a place where God has won a victory over violence: there have been attacks, weapons of war, there has been battle. God has been active. God is known here for what God has done to change the role of prey and predator on
these enemies, to shatter their weapons, to plunder their strength, to stun and neutralize their shock troops, to stop this assault dead in its tracks. This God is no mortal monarch. This marvelous God roars in outrage at the domination threatened by earthly overlords. This God wreaks devastation on the violent and their violence, calls a halt to their advance, explicitly for the sake of the suffering ones: to deliver the oppressed of the earth. The God known in this song, by this song, through this song, is the God whose activity defends the oppressed, by opposing their enemies. It is as if these enemies are frozen in horror at the sudden awareness of who they violate when they raise a fist against a person made in the image of Because I prefer to identify with other characters in the Bible. I prefer the feeling of hitting the exegetical snooze alarm, pulling my good intentions up to my chin, and snuggling into my best innocent and harmless self-image. Right here, I suspect, I could benefit from a big, bright caution against drowsiness. If I am asleep at the wheel, it will not matter that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone; and if I am talking in my sleep, it will not matter that I wanted what I
said about God to be comforting, and not wounding, that I intended to nurture
faith, not to poison it. It won’t matter, because the Bible is a power tool if there ever was one, and a drowsy person with a power tool in hand is a menace; someone It has happened before. Faithful people have lived with the verbal violence of routine repetitions of scriptural and metaphorical formulas for a long time – so long that someone might need to shout, to roar in outrage, to get us to notice what we are saying and how it might sound to another. When I forget that I need to see God through the eyes of the people of God – the people God defends and protects – it will be easy for me to participate Maybe I will do it by talking about God’s sovereignty as if it were simply
domination, simply exerting strict control over everyone and everything; by drawing another emphatic line around the Biblical and theological themes of power as control that slip so smoothly into the absolutism that informs every . . . single . . . item . . . on the famous “Power and Control Wheel” that is the staple of Domestic Violence Awareness workshops – slips as easily as a book slips out of the hand of a dozing reader. The theme of sovereignty demands the balance of the equally Biblical themes of compassion, of love and zeal for the least and the lowly, of justice, to keep from becoming a blunt instrument in the hands of earthly pretenders to divine right, whether the divine right of kings, or just the divine right to rule the castle that, as the saying goes, every man’s home is. But I could just as easily participate in that verbal violence by running to the opposite extreme, embracing the theology of the cross so tightly that my listeners can feel the splinters, preaching the imitation of Christ even to sufferers strictly as a merciless obligation, simply as pious passivity,
neglecting to raise the question of what greater good can possibly emerge from this particular suffering. I could insist on forgiveness before repentance. I could
crush, instead of planting and watering, the spirited resistance to death-dealing that lives into redemption from exile, that lives into resurrection. Domestic Violence Awareness, for people who spend a lot of time in church, especially for people who have the authority to speak in church, means waking up to the impact of our words, and the import of our knowledge, about God and about ourselves. It means waking to the realization that God is best known in places of peace; even, or perhaps especially, places of peace that acknowledge rather than ignore the reality and proximity of violence; in places where the spirit of domination has been called to account, humbled, and named as contrary to God; in places where wisdom, with its complexity, prevails against the simple, with its distortion, in particular wisdom about words, and This awareness is ultimately theological. The God known and spoken of
in this song is no cardboard caricature, but yet another ray of the omni- dimensional Living One, who will be whatever and whomever on behalf of life and love. This God repeatedly exceeds every limited image we have, calling and recalling us to fresh acquaintance. Similarly, this God’s plans for peace, and for justice for the oppressed, exceed even the imagination of this song. Nevertheless, this song knows enough about God to know that those plans are on the side of the oppressed. If we are not working on that side, we are all too
likely to be swelling the ranks of those kings and princes who are disturbing the peace. And if we are not looking for God along this sightline, in line with the
trajectory traced by the vision of the oppressed, when God rises to execute justice we are all too likely to be standing with those who fear the destruction of their cherished constructs, instead of with those who are rapt in anticipation of According to Zechariah, one of the signs of that still-largely-invisible messianic age will be the gathering in of all people to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, or Shelters – to celebrate by sitting around a table, sharing a meal, in a shelter open to the sky, looking up at the stars in Zion, the place of peace. The full flowering of that messianic age is still beyond the horizon. But surely we too are invited to be aware of it; to see its hopeful signs and feel its reality. Surely we too are already invited to know God as well as we can at present in a place of peace. If we write that vision large and plain, with the best calligraphy we have learned, and keep it before our eyes, we can move towards that future place of peace, without neglecting the real demands of the present
24/7 Care Delivery Models Research Project UHC / RAND Collaboration Joanne Cuny RN, BSN, MBA Quality & Risk Councils Meeting Director of Quality February 19 – 20, 2009 © 2009 University HealthSystem Consortium UHC/RAND Received AHRQ ACTION Grant to Examine 24x7 Care Delivery Models AHRQ “Accelerating Change and Transformation in Organizations and Networks