# 231 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 74. An international cause for lament.

With people over 60 years old among the most vulnerable, July has turned deadly for a number of people in aged care in the State of Victoria in Australia where there has been a “second wave” of Covid-19. The Guardian reported:

“As of Tuesday 28 July, there were Covid-19 outbreaks in about 80 of Victoria’s approximately 400 private residential aged care facilities, with 764 active cases among aged care residents and staff. The infection ratio of staff to residents is about 50:50. It took just over a fortnight for the infections to spread throughout the sector.”

(https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/29/a-foreseeable-catastrophe-how-covid-19-swept-through-victorias-nursing-homes)

Although the majority of people who are infected with Covid-19 are between 20 -60 years old, the majority who will die are between 60-90 years old.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said,  “Personally, I have found the last week very distressing to see the number of outbreaks that we have had across our aged care sector in Victoria and also the number of fatalities that we have had.”

(https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-29/victoria-coronavirus-aged-care-outbreaks-timeline/12498532)

This is a tragedy that is not only causing distress in Australia but worldwide. If nothing else during this pandemic breaks our hearts and causes us to lament and seek God with tears for his mercy, then at least may we cry out to Him for our aged parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters.

Fortunately, in these difficult days we can learn how to pray from the psalmists. We have previously considered some Psalms of Lament (or Psalms of Disorientation or Complaint), but there are actually two types. There are Psalms of Personal Lament, e.g. Psalm 13 and there are Psalms of Communal Lament. Psalm 74 is one of these.

The psalmist, Asaph, cries out to God during a time of national disaster. He prays: 

 O God, why have you rejected us forever?
    Why does your anger smoulder against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
    the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—
    Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
    all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.

Although, the personal laments probably resonate better with us, I think that meditating on this communal lament psalm in the midst of a worldwide pandemic seems appropriate and hopefully helpful.

As regards this psalm, Brueggemann makes some insightful comments. He suggests that it is possible that we (in 21st Century western culture) have “experienced a loss of public awareness and public imagination…given our privatistic inclination, [defined as, ‘the social position of being noncommittal to or uninvolved with anything other than one’s own immediate interests and lifestyle], we do not often think about public disasters as concerns for [our] prayer life. If we do, we treat them somehow as a lesser item. We have nearly lost our capacity to think theologically about public issues and public problems. Even more, we have lost our capacity to practice prayer in relationship to public events.”  

He continues that this psalm permits “us to remember that we are indeed public citizens and creatures and have an immediate, direct, and personal stake in public events. The recovery of this mode of psalmic prayer may be important if we are to overcome our general religious abdication of public issues and the malaise of indifference and apathy that comes with the abdication.” (# 2)

Quite a challenge for us in 2020!

Next time, we will look into just what was the primary cause of this psalmist’s distress.

Lord Jesus, your disciples asked you to “teach us to pray”. We certainly need your help as we consider what is happening in our world at this present time. Particularly, we cry out to you for mercy and your intervention and protection in the lives of those most vulnerable to this incredibly infectious and deadly virus. Amen.

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