When I Lift My Voice

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify God with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. – Psalm 69:30-31 (NRSV)

As I scrolled through the photos and videos taken during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, one image struck me in particular: a screenshot from a video taken by a reporter for The New Yorker. In it a crowd of people surges through an opening in the fabric draped from the viewing stands prepared for the inauguration. Upraised above the heads of the crowd, a gloved hand holds a Bible.

I have been struggling with this and other images that invoke my faith but diverge from my understanding of faithfulness. A sign claiming “Jesus Saves,” seen in the midst of insurrectionists. A large group praying at the site of a gallows. A woman storming the Capitol “in the name of Jesus.” The “Q shaman” wearing horns and repeatedly giving thanks for God’s “white light” from the presider’s chair in the U.S. Senate, an overt reference to White supremacy.

What am I saying when I lift my voice in praise?

For almost a year my prayers have been private: in my living room watching recorded worship, or from a mask in my portable chair in the church parking lot. The distance between my praise and the prayers offered in the Capital feels far greater than the geographic miles between us. Yet a respected friend and colleague cautioned that when we start talking about “we versus they,” we need to ask ourselves, “They who?”

Holy One, may our praise be the kind you hope to hear. Not our will be done, but yours. Amen.

Martha Spong About the Author
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, new from The Pilgrim Press.