“The voice of the Lord causes oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!'” – Psalm 29: 9
Have we got it backwards? “Othering” people, while “friending” God?
Bob was among the sweetest men I knew. A social worker, he had once been a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, a generally conservative and evangelical fellowship.
At some point, he had left both the ordained ministry and that denomination behind him. Now he was a member of a more liberal UCC congregation. Bob embraced the work of people like John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg with an enthusiasm bordering on zeal.
Yet on the day when Bob was the Scripture reader in worship and the text was Psalm 29, it all came back.
He got to the final verse of the reading, “And in his temple all say, ‘Glory,'” and there was a tremble in his voice. Where I would have said “glory” in a flat, clipped way, Bob’s “glory” was deep, drawn out and resonant. It was GLOW – REE. I swear there was an echo.
If I had said “glory” that way it would have sounded affected and stupid. But when Bob said it, it was just right.
Today we speak of “othering,” which is to view or treat a person or group of people as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself. Such “othering” distorts us all and permits inhumane treatment of some.
And we labor to make God accessible. But there’s a sense in which God remains, and will always remain, Other. Beyond. Not us. That’s what I heard in Bob’s voice as he read Psalm 29 that day, and I was grateful for it.
You alone, O God, are holy. Grant that we would not ascribe holiness or glory to any other even as we seek connection and understanding with all your creatures. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.