Second Sunday of Advent – Year B
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
1 YHWH, you have been favorable to your land,
you renewed Jacob’s fortunes.
2 You carried your people’s waywardness,
you covered all their offenses. Selah
8 I will listen to what YHWH God will speak,
because he will speak of shalom
to his people and to those committed to him,
those who must not turn to folly.
9 Yes, his deliverance is near for people who are in awe of him,
so that his honor may settle in our land.
10 Commitment and truthfulness—they have met;
faithfulness and shalom—they have embraced.
11 Truthfulness—it springs up from the earth;
faithfulness—it has looked down from the heavens.
12 Yes, YHWH—he will give good things;
our land—it will give its increase.
13 Faithfulness—it will walk before him
as he sets his feet on the path.
The psalm for the Second Sunday in Advent is at first blush rather unassuming. It is almost docile. The first two verses roll easily off the lips of someone like me, a white American evangelical protestant male. Indeed, it is easy for me to agree that God has been favorable to the land in which I live and that in Jesus Christ, God has covered all my offenses.
But this only betrays a lazy, superficial reading of the text which ignores the psalm’s historical and cultural contexts. I make the grave error of equating YHWH’s land with my country, of Jacob’s fortunes with my bank account balance, of reducing the offenses of Israel to my own individual sin, errors evangelicals make too often when approaching the Hebrew scriptures. In doing so, I turn the psalm into an affirmation of my individual piety and miss out on the astonishing claims of the psalm for God’s beloved community. Continue Reading…