Babbling Bulwarks

Babbling Bulwarks

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The Rev. Dr. John A. Nelson is pastor of the Congregational Church of Salisbury, UCC in CT.


Scripture:  Psalm 8:1-4 (NRSV)

O Holy One, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars
that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Reflection: Babbling Bulwarks

“Out of the mouths of babes and infants” takes on fresh meaning when you have an actual infant on hand. In a video clip of our 7-month old granddaughter, we hear her mother’s sing-song, “La la la la la.” The baby’s eyes are riveted on her mom. Her little jaw starts wagging up and down in imitation. Then come vocalizations that sound very much like “La la la.” We watch in awe at what appears to be the first acquisition of spoken language.
 
Mom starts the refrain again. At which point the baby blows a raspberry, which seems to be her go-to signal for “I’m happy” or “I’m done with this.” (Mom bursts into laughter, practically guaranteeing that verbal raspberries will be the personal brand for this child.)
 
Psalm 8 invites me to consider: this baby’s babble is the bulwark against all that undermines or contests the power of grace. (Or the power of Grace, which happens to be her name.)
 
Is it possible? God’s foe — the relentless destruction of habitat, the poisoning of air and ground and water, the refusal to speedily confront our production of climate chaos, the willful disregard for the integrity of creation — the answer to such a foe comes from the burbling of a child?
 
Is it possible that God’s enemy — the obscene investment in the instruments and infrastructure of war, the ready willingness to take up arms — that God answers such an enemy with a sing-song syllable?
 
Is it possible that avengers — each of us when we presume to supplant God’s authority over fullness of life, or fail to honor the dignity of another — are silenced by an infant blowing a raspberry?
 
The psalm invites me to consider that this is exactly one of the ways that God works. It reminds me that the powers and principalities that would contend against God’s shalom cannot be answered on their terms, but require a response on God’s terms. The psalm recalls a preacher’s pithy summary of Easter’s miracle: the victory of seemingly powerless love over loveless power.
 
The psalm reminds me that God sometimes works by profoundly resetting my frame of mind and state of spirit, and God will do so through the ineluctable force of grace (and Grace).
 
The psalm promises a Bronx cheer — blown enthusiastically and eloquently by an energetic, vulnerable child — has the capacity to restore delight and renew dedication to striving for God’s realm, regardless of opposition and whatever the cost.

PRAYER

Holy One — You who abide both wholly beyond the universe and wholly within the smallest speck of creation — babble in us today until we melt with awe, and laugh with wonder, and rise up with love. Amen.
 

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at paged@sneucc.org

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the victims and their families of the 526 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
  • For the families and friends of more than 684,000 who have died due to the Covid-19 disease.
  • For those grieving or suffering after a train derailed in Montana over the weekend, leaving 3 dead and 7 hospitalized
  • For those impacted by the eruption of the Cumbre Viejo volcano in LaPalma, Spain which has lead to thousands of evacuation, and the destruction of hundreds of homes and plantations acres

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For Ewan van der Swaagh, grandson of the Rev. Price van der Swaagh, and family. Ewan, diognosed with cancer in 2016, continues to be cancer free and is a thriving 11 year old. Rev. Price van der Swaagh and his family thank the Conference for all of their prayers.

 This Week in History:

September 30, 1889 (132 years ago) Wyoming legislators write the first state constitution which grants women the right to vote. The territory had allowed women to vote since 1869. As Wyoming was only a territory and not a state at the time, it officially became the first state to allow women to vote in 1890 when Wyoming became a state.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

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John A. Nelson

pastor and teacher of the Niantic Community Church

September 27, 2021
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