Scrolling through the newspaper this morning I found, as I expected, that the top article was about Russia, and its supposed pullback in Ukraine. Western officials remain cautiously optimistic at this point, although they have not seen any signs of the pullback beginning. Putin’s behavior remains suspect.
Moving to the next article, I found a series of stories about the Olympics. First was a summary of which countries were the winners yesterday. In Men’s Hockey it was not the United States but Slovakia who reigned. Next came an article that alerted the reader that American Olympians of Chinese descent are having issues with China and their American homeland. They have become targets of patriotic and even nationalistic sentiments from both countries that runs the gamut of expression from being loved and adored to others acting hostile toward them.
There is a noticeably short story on Prince Andrew and his out-of-court settlement with Virginia Giuffre, thus averting as the BBC states, “Headlines as tall as the New York skyscrapers.” Next, I was saddened to read about Hong Kong hospitals being overwhelmed amid the spike in new cases of the Omicron variant. I recalled recent problems our own hospitals and health care system had encountered during the pandemic.
The final big national story was about the Canada protests by truck drivers. Four protesters in Alberta were charged with conspiracy to kill police officers.
Whew! That is quite a bit of news, and most of it not good. That is not to mention important news that is not news any longer; overwhelming poverty and hunger in much of the world. That is not to mention the oppression and suspected genocide of the Uyghurs in China. That is not to mention growing inflation. The world keeps spinning and people keep behaving like people. Some are involved in righteous living and others in wicked, and some dabbling in both.
Portions of Psalm 37 are the assigned Psalm for this coming weekend. It is either a sermon or a teaching of a wise elder. The question addressed is, "Why, if God works for and wills justice, do the wicked seem to prosper? How do we live amid people who are violent and wicked, who take advantage of us and others?”
The psalmist doesn’t give us a definitive answer, but instead offers us reassurance. Trust in the Lord. The righteous are going to be vulnerable to the violent and unjust practices of powerful oppressors, but trust in the Lord. Look not to the wicked but to those who do good. Those who live simply, those who practice generosity, those who proclaim and embody God’s will for justice.
The psalmist cautions not to fret. Do not lose sleep worrying about the wicked or be envious of the corrupt who become rich by ruthless means. It may seem like the powerful wicked are in control, but the psalmist reminds the reader that God is the One who is in ultimate control. If we tell ourselves that the wicked will prosper, then we are failing to trust in God. Do not fall into that temptation because it leads to despair and the temptation to follow wickedness.
It is important to be aware that prosperity is not equated with wickedness. The psalmist tells us that the righteous who are prosperous are generous and keep giving to help the poor and work for justice. On the other hand, the prosperous who are wicked get their prosperity by wicked means and use it for themselves and in unjust ways. In the same vein, the poor may be wicked, or they may be righteous. So, prosperity cannot be directly related to wickedness or righteousness.
Our temptation is to tie our worth to our material prosperity. And when we do not have enough money, possessions, or home updates, we mistakenly feel unworthy. The wise psalmist reminds us not to put our trust in the world's standards. Trust in the Lord, be patient. Only the Lord can give life now, that is really life. So, entrust your life and your future to God, even amid the ongoing injustice all around us.
But also, be encouraged through your faith, and do not be content with the status quo. Embody justice in your love for others. William Sloan Coffin, a Yale Chaplain and activist against the Vietnam War and a supporter of civil rights, stated, "Hope criticizes what is, hopelessness rationalizes it. Hope resists, hopelessness adapts.” Coffin summarizes, “Hope is a state of mind independent of the state of the world. If your heart's full of hope, you can be persistent when you can't be optimistic. You can keep the faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing has the evidence any chance of changing.”