Bread – Cursing

August 10, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, August 10, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 14:21-33; Acts 21:15-26; Mark 10:17-31; Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144

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We are surrounded by them all day long – curses. In fact, we probably contribute daily to the cacophony of curses. We stub our toe and what comes out of our mouth? We get hurt by someone we trusted and what comes out of our mouth? We are late to an important meeting and what comes out of our mouth? And the ultimate opportunity for curses – we get behind someone doing 40 miles an hour in the high speed lane (with a 70 mph speed limit), and then they slow down, and what comes out of our mouth?

The specification in the Book of Common Prayer for today’s readings omits verses 5 to 19 in Psalm 109. I love it when the authors do that – because in my contrary spirit that is exactly then what I will read. And in today’s “excluded” reading, what is David doing – cursing!

And he is very good at it. Let’s see how many of these we can associate with having done ourselves:

Ps. 109:6 – “[to God] Appoint an evil man to destroy him.” (“I hope he gets a boss as bad as he is”)

Ps. 109:7a – “When he is tried, let him be found guilty.” (“I hope he gets what he deserves and goes to jail, the ____”)

Ps. 109:7b – “May his prayers condemn him.” (“If he dares talk to you God, then zap him good!”)

Ps. 109:8a – “May his days be few.” (“Why don’t you just die!”)

Ps. 109:8b – “May another take his place of leadership.” (“I hope he is fired!”)

Ps. 109:9 – “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” (“I hope somebody kills him!”)

Ps. 109:10 – “May his children be wandering beggars…” (“I hope he loses his job, he doesn’t deserve it anyway!”)

Ps. 109:11 – “May a creditor seize all he has…” (“Someone needs to send him to the poor house!”)

Ps. 109:12 – “May no one extend kindness to him …” (“He needs to be treated the same way he treats me!”)

Ps. 109:13 – “May his descendants be cut off…” (“He and his whole family can go to ______!”)

Ps. 109:17 – “He loved to pronounce a curse – may it come on him” (“Let him get what he deserves!”)

What is included in the assigned reading are verses 1-4 and then 21 through the end. Verse 4 ends “…but I am a man of prayer,” and Verse 21 starts “But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for Your name’s sake; out of the goodness of Your love, deliver me.”

Isn’t this so much like we live our lives? On Sunday we say to God, “Hey, I’m here – I’m a man of worship and prayer – now deal well with me so You look good, love me like You should, and deliver me.” The rest of the time, in that space between “I am a man of prayer” and “please deliver me because You love me,” we fill with curses toward our brothers and sisters, toward our life, and toward God.

“O, I have a right to be mad against so-and-so because they …..” you say. And indeed, for their offense against you, you probably do have that right.

And because we disobey God and are born into sin, into the nature of disobedience, God has the same right. But for His children, for us, He declines to exercise it and instead extends the gift of grace, the gift of mercy, the gift of salvation, the gift of everlasting life. Out of the goodness of His love, He delivers.

The person who wrote this Psalm, David, was obviously having a bad hair day. He was mad at some people and it showed up in his prayer to God – “God, curse these bad, bad, bad, bad people – please.” God did not blow David up for having these thoughts, but one wonders if He laughed a little.

Psalm 109 ends with two statements.

In the first ending statement, David said “With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise Him.” Ps. 109:30. Really. And how does David’s curses fit into his witness? Do you think that curses either extol the Lord or praise Him? How do your curses fit into your witness?

In the second ending statement, David said “For He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.” Ps. 109:31. And who does David have reference to? The people David is condemning – and the person, David, they are condemning. Both needy.

Today, when we are ready to curse at the greatest or least slight, it may pay to remember two things. When we say that we are people of prayer and that we extol the Lord but we curse others, is there something out of sync. When we curse others, how do we know that God is not standing by them, the needy, too?

Perhaps if we thought first about who we are as God’s earthly ambassadors and second about the objects of our wrath, people no different from ourselves, our cursing would fade away into distant memory. And there would be no need to cut it out of our Psalm, because it would not be there in the first place.

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