Monday, March 12, 2018
Reading: Psalm 51:1-12
My name is Yon Yonson,
I live in Wisconsin,
I work in a lumber mill there.
All the people I meet,
When I walk down the street
Say, "Hello, what's your name?"
And I say:
My name is Yon Yonson...
This potentially never-ending rhyme tickled me when I first moved to Wisconsin as a teen. It pokes fun, more or less kindly, at Scandinavian/northern Midwestern accents (which I absolutely love and miss).
My daughter recently borrowed a library book of current comic book artists' renditions of nursery rhymes, and in "Yon Yonson", Yon meets a woman on the street, introduces himself, then runs around the block to greet her again for the next (same) verse. Yon gets nowhere and the woman becomes utterly exhausted by the whole seemingly pointless exercise of repetition.
Yon Yonson makes me think about the tiring, cyclical way we interact with God.
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly offers trust and a covenant to God's people. The Hebrews fulfill their part of the covenant for a while, but then stumble, fall short of their part of honoring God, to which God responds (perhaps after thinking about it for a while) by renewing the covenant with a new hope for the people. Hearing this cycle repeatedly enough, we see how God's people aren't getting anywhere and God must be getting exhausted of humankind.
Psalm 51 is one moment in that cycle of promise and letdown. Tradition suggests that King David wrote Psalm 51 after he used his power to force beautiful Bathsheba to sleep with him (#metoo ?), leading to Bathsheba's pregnancy and David having Bathsheba's husband Uriah die in battle, before the child dies in childbirth.
In his grief David sees the sin and error of his ways, and the cycle he is wrapped up in, and composes the song asking for God to "renew a right spirit in me." He arguably wants God to help reshape him so that he can re-introduce himself to God as a new person.
Does God know whether David has truly changed his ways, or is he simply going to sing the next verse the same as the first?
Does David himself even know if he's really repented, really disavowed and turned a corner away from sin and exploiting his power?
We can't know for sure, but David does identify God as steadfast in love and mercy and as desiring a heart that is truly sorry. In those ways, David does seem to have changed his tune.
Lent is a time to consider what ways we drone on and on in brokenness and self-absorption, how we may be like Yon during his song or like David before his. Lent is a time to imagine how we can change our tune not simply by writing a new song or our own but by joining the chorus of praise to God and of confession and gratitude for God's mercy and steadfast love.
We don't need to be a national leader who feels shame in order to restore a right relationship with God. What we need are humility, hope and a willingness to stay engaged with God who loves us even when we are stuck in bad habits and sin, who loves us enough to share love through Jesus.
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34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
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