He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. – 1 Samuel 2:8
The Bible is replete with passages that hew to a theme cherished by many of us who grew up in the ‘60s: “The arc of history bends toward justice.” Back then it was a theme made particularly relevant by Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. For Cold War kids like me, who were in high school and college during that period, it was a theme we embraced with all the brash confidence of youth, in spite of the chaos that seemed to engulf us. It’s one I stubbornly cling to even as I enter my dotage — even after losing faith in the power of Woodstock Nation to realize it.
Truth be told, I think we failed our children and grandchildren to a great extent. To be fair, the country we helped shape has made a lot of progress in terms of social justice, but the world as a whole seems more sharply divided between the princes and the poor — and the evening news just seems to underscore the disparities between those few with a seat at the table and the multitudes still mired in the ash heap. Today, the vigorous optimism of youth is being gradually replaced in my heart with a calmer and more abiding faith that justice and reconciliation are in far more capable hands than mine.
The promise of 1 Samuel 2:8 will come about, but it will happen in the Lord’s time. For those of you fond of wordplay, you might think of it as the “arc” of the covenant. If you consider the mission statement of St. Paul’s, our role and that of our children, grandchildren, and generations to come, is not so much to bend the bow of justice, but to do our best not to thwart the power of the Lord to fulfill the promise of 1 Samuel. Not that we could.
Lord, we believe that God is healing and restoring the world and that we are recipients and participants in that healing and restoration. May your love give us the strength, courage, wisdom, and compassion to live into our faith. Amen.