Living Psalm 91 – Lent 1C
Living Psalms Book
Psalms in the form of words and art, reborn in the specific contexts of our world, privileging the voices of historically marginalized communities and those acting in solidarity with them.
Living Psalm 91: Lent 1 C
A Dialogue for Tempter (T) and a Lay Reader (LR) Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16
(Feel free to represent Tempter as Halloween-costumed devil representing an outside temptation to complicity in hatred and bigotry, to self-interest and cruelty … or as a person in beige nondescript clothing with mirrors hung front and back – to imply inner temptation … but something that will startle the Lay Reader. Lay Reader stands a lectern and Tempter arrives, whistling – maybe “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”)
LR: (startled) Who the hel … who are you?
T: I am the Tempter.
LR: The what?
T: The Tempter! Satan, Ego, Cruella deVille, Old Scratch, Damballa, Bully, Yen-lo-Wang, Shetani, Nihasa, your worst nightmare, your sweetest dream, your littlest lie, your …
LR: I’m sorry. You have a role in the next scripture. Go wait in the wings.
T: Trust me – I am always in the wings. I used to wear them, too.
I am here for this reading because I need to collect my psalm.
LR: Your psalm?
T: The Devil quotes scripture. Someone said that – oh, right — Jesus.
LR: William Shakespeare. Merchant of Venice.
T: Whatever. (looking ferocious) This psalm is MINE! I used it. I own it.
LR: Nobody owns the Bible.
T: You are missing most of history, kid. My history of people hurting other people by hitting them with things they swear are in the Bible. It’s my greatest achievement.
(The Tempter tries to take the Bible away – they wrestle)
LR: I’m reading this to those people.
T: You’ll be sorry.
LR: (reading) “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to God, ‘My refuge and my fortress; in whom I trust.’ Because you have made God your refuge, the Most High your dwelling-place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.”
T: So how does that work for most people? Trust in God and nothing bad happens?
I just love that kind of preaching! O yeah. It means, yes it does – don’t interrupt me – It means — if you have that bad stuff happen – that job lost, that really bad diagnosis, that sick child, that terrible accident – whoops, guess you didn’t trust God enough.
LR: That’s not what it means! It …
T: So, it also means look at the happy, rich, not-incarcerated, healthy folks
and that’s how you can tell the good Christian god-lucky people?
LR: It doesn’t mean that at all. It …
T: Go on with the Bible.
LR: Well, the lectionary skips some things …
T: Naughty, naughty – what are they afraid of.?
LR: (Checking the Bible) Well, … God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler …
T: Ever get a foreclosure … not accepted to college … traffic sting … cheating spouse …
not get a job because of the color of your skin or a house because you like to kiss someone of the same sex??? Those are some of my best “fowlers.” And this passage explains that, if you are a really godly person, it will never happen to you.
LR (hesitant, reading) God will deliver you from the deadly pestilence …
T: No cancer or dementia for you!
LR: (reading) You will not fear the terror of the night …
T: You won’t even get insomnia! Trusting God cures everything! Go on …
LR: (reading) A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
T: I love it when that passage is read on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day — it’s wicked good.
LR: It doesn’t mean that …
T: It doesn’t matter what the scripture means, kid – It’s what somebody like me tells you it means. You and I know God is right with you in that chemo suite, God is in that
border detention center, God’s wings are over the homeless meal, not the high-end foodie restaurant. But I am in the discouragement business and making people who are vulnerable and frightened feel unloved just butters my…. croissant.
LR: I’m going to read the rest of the lectionary passage now.
T: Oh yeah – I love it – this is the part I used on Jesus. Sweet!
LR: (pointedly ignoring Tempter)
For God will command angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
T: Got to love that Bible. Supports the rich and famous and lucky and … did I say rich? every time.
LR: It doesn’t. I know it doesn’t. Just wait till the preacher gets going.
T: Preacher-feature is gone in a minute. I get to weaponize the Living Word!
Hate trumps holiness every time.
LR: No, you don’t! No, it doesn’t!
T: (pretend shaking) Oooo I’m scared. Who sent you to seminary? Who made you … god?
LR: At least I’m “in the image of God” – which you are not.
LR: You think you’ve got this psalm. Well, you tried it on Jesus and you expected him to …
LR: And Jesus didn’t jump. The Devil didn’t make him do it. The Devil picked the wrong details to be in. The Devil wears …. cream-pie-on-the-face. Jesus proved that this psalm and the Bible doesn’t belong to you or anyone else who wants to twist it up. This psalm is pure comfort for those people who live in the toughest wilderness, so they know God’s with them.
So, take your genetically modified bread, your power-plays and your false leap of faith out of this church and don’t come back.
Both leave … but not together.
Living Psalm 91, for Lent 1, was written by Maren Tirabassi.
Living Psalms Book is created by UCC Witness & Worship Artists’ Group, a Network of UCC connected artists, activists and ministers bridging the worship and liturgy of the local church with witness and action in the community.
Logo is detail from Living Psalm 80 by Sophia Beardemphl, Redwoods, CA. Recovering from significant bullying, Sophia, age nine, read Psalm 80 and thought of brokenness that needs mending. She drew this broken and mended bowl.
© Copyright 2019 Maren Tirabassi. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.