Plans which perish underfoot
Psalm 146 (NIV)
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
The poet and essayist Wendell Berry has long been one of my mountaintop companions — albeit in the virtual sense. With a lifelong interest in God, in people, and in place, Berry campaigns and cajoles like the proverbial Prophet,
‘What I stand for is what I stand on’
‘Do unto those downstream what you would have those upstream do unto you’
…but he writes like a Psalmist. (Unless otherwise noted all quotations are from ‘The Art of the Commonplace – The agrarian essays of Wendell Berry’, 2004.)
In today’s reading, the Psalmist urges us, perhaps rather pointedly, not to put our trust in princes, though in the interest of clarity, the writer then goes on to say that it is not just princes who we are not to trust — our trust should be in God alone and not in any other human being.
According to the Psalmist (and to Berry), the reason is threefold:
- There is nobody else in whom or through whom salvation is to be found
‘I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love’ (Berry).
- Secondly, when all is said and done, we humans return to the ground beneath our feet
‘The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all’. (Berry)
- And then, for better or worse, our plans, if they are not God’s plans, come to nothing
“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here.” (Berry, from ‘Jayber Crow’)
Maker of Heaven and earth
We give thanks for the insight of ancient psalmists and present-day prophets.
Help us, with them, to put our all our hope and trust in you.
In Jesus’ name