Psalm 114  Scripture Reading    WUCC May 10 2020 Mother’s Day

Our reading today is Psalm 114 as interpreted and prayed by Nan C. Merrill from Jericho Vermont,

Nan was a mother and author of several prayer books, notably Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness.

Hear now Nan’s version of Psalm 114

Come, all you who have wandered  far from the path,
who have separated yourselves from Love;
A banquet is prepared for you  in the heart’s Secret Room.

 There you will find the way home;
a welcome ever awaits you.
Even as you acknowledge the times you have erred,
the forgiveness of the Beloved will envelope you.

Call upon the Beloved when fear arises,
when you feel overwhelmed;
the Eternal Listener will heed your cry;
you will find strength to face the shadows.

Befriend all that is within you,
discover the Secret Room in your heart.
Then will abundant blessings enter your home,
and you will welcome the Divine Guest  who is ever within you.

And in thanks for this scripture,
let us say  Amen,

The Most Important Scripture in the Bible

I attended five afternoon lectures in the Hall of Philosophy at the Chautauqua Institute in 2000 by John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest, and  author of Jesus A Revolutionary Biography (1994) , and  The Birth of Christianity (1998), and over a dozen other books on New Testament history.  He and Robert Funk were the co-chairs of the Jesus Seminar for its first ten years (1985-1995).
During the Q/A after the fifth lecture, a member of the audience asked Crossan his favorite piece of scripture.  He said, “Psalm 82.  Hmm, I said by your faces that few of you recall Psalm 82..” The audience laughed.
“He continued, here is my translation.”
I have no recordings, so first here is the King James (NKJV)

A Plea for Justice

A Psalm of Asaph.

82 God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.

They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.

I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.

I recall Crossan’s version like this:

 God was seated at the banquet table with the other gods,
He scolded them saying,
How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah

3 Defend the poor and fatherless!
Do justice to the afflicted and needy!
Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.

5 You gods do not know, nor do you understand;
You walk about in darkness; Look- 
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.

I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
When you die and are ashes,
 like any of the men

8 I will be the Lord God,
And I shall bring justice to the earth.”

Now that’s a twenty year old memory from year 2000.  Pretty unstable.

So I went looking online and found a sermon from 2011

 The Single Most Important Text in the Entire
Christian Bible
A sermon by J. Clinton McCann, Jr.
23 Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 4, 2011 (a decade after 9/11)
Psalm 82; John 1:1–5, 14

Find it at

Click to access 09.04.pdf

Here’s an excerpt from Rev McCann’s sermon, but the whole sermon is good reading.

.”…..   Let me share with you, in his own words, why Crossan thinks that
Psalm 82 is “the single most important text in the entire Christian Bible”:

From Crossan
“Before celebrating . . . [the] incarnation [John 1:14, “the Word became
flesh”], we must address a prior question about the character of the divinity
involved. And . . . [Psalm 82] best summarizes for me the character of . . .
[the biblical] God. . . . It imagines a . . . scene in which God sits among the
gods and goddesses in divine council. Those pagan gods and goddesses are
dethroned not just because they are pagan, nor because they are other, nor
because they are competition. They are dethroned for injustice, for divine
malpractice, for transcendental malfeasance in office. They are rejected
because they do not demand and effect justice among the peoples of the
earth. And that justice is spelled out as protecting the poor from the rich,
protecting the systemically weak from the systemically powerful. Such
injustice creates darkness over the earth and shakes the very foundation of
the world……. ”

I am sure I have recalled Crossan’s exact words roughly, but  I got the gist of his translation right, according to McCann
The quote above is from Crossan’s History of Christianity.  I bought a copy that week and had him sign it to my daughter.  Last night  (5/8/2020) I watched the movie Two Popes, where Pope Benedict, after long disagreements with the priest/Cardinal from Argentina who will become his successor , makes way the highway for his unanimous election on the first ballot. Psalm 82 rang in my ears.  That’s why Abraham Lincoln’s portrait hung on the wall of the murdered reformer in Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country.   All human beings are created “equal” and deserve equal rights. It’s theology and it’s democracy. In God we trust. Our God provides for us all- talented, sickly, imperfect, hard-working, young, old, and we are God’s children and servants.
I was raised UCC, but am indebted to a Claretian Brothers summer camp, to  St Bede Academy for the most academically challenging year of my life at age 16, two Catholic Colleges- Aurora College and St Dominic College as a high school students taking  college classes in science and theology classes, and the opportunity to teach for ten years at Trinity College and St Joseph College.
My college roommate dropped his plans for priesthood, but spent his career as the CFO for a consortium of a dozen Catholic hospitals in the Chicago area.  We are blessed with many ways to serve. And we are offered many ways to learn how the Spirit speaks to and guides us.
I lived six wonderous years in college and grad school with a conservative Jewish partner, from whom I learned a great deal about Jesus of Nazareth. And Sabbath, and Seders, and Scripture, and Singing, and Science, and Traditions.  I was a tour guide for four years at the interdenominational Rockefeller Chapel, mostly for school kids, teaching from banners, and statues, and stained glass, and  stairs winding up into the bell tower, about the confluence of great religions in our civilizations.   I find the UCC to be particularly energizing in my church, my community, locally and nationally, for scholarship, meditation, discovery, and for not just toleration but appreciation of the richness of spiritual traditions.