Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 110) transports me back to the Oakley house of my upbringing, circa late 1960s, when my Granny lived with us and entertained me constantly with her expressions. One of her favorite sayings, generally spoken in response to some exasperating piece of news, was Law, law, call the law. This was accompanied by head wagging and a whistle through her false teeth. I later learned that this expression was an alteration of a biblical expression, Lord, lord, which some people had transformed to Lordy, lordy, and still others had altered to Lawsy law or simply eh law. One of my favorites was Lawsy Meduza which apparently stemmed from Lord have mercy. Anyway, Granny added the nice touch, call the law, to her alteration of Lord, Lord.
Jesus, in his tête à tête with the Pharisees at the end of Matthew 22, threw in a couple of Lords of his own, quoting today’s Psalm passage. Note the all caps LORD in the beginning of the Psalm. Whenever you see this in scripture, you’ll know that this is what the Hebrew writers would put down for the unspeakable holy name of God, aka Yahweh, I am that I am. The second lord translates the Hebrew adonai, which originally meant ruler or father. It is in the plural, which gives it extra oomph and emphasis. But enough grammar for today, the point is that Jesus used this verse to prove to his accusers that the Messiah couldn’t be the son of David, because David referred to him as his Lord, which meant that he couldn’t be his son. The logical conundrum was enough to stump all of the listeners, because the gospel text tells us no one dared ask Jesus any more questions from then on. The Psalm passage is interesting, because it shows how the the Lord will conquer all aspirants to wordly power, the kind of “power over” that oppresses and exploits. The “Lord of lords” will crush the very concept of worldly kingship or lordship or a ruling class. From the womb of dawn the Lord will deliver the dew of youth, and dance a victory jig, trampling the aged enemy powers underfoot. It’s a graphic scene to be sure, as the Lord heaps up the dead dreams of domination in a mass grave, and then stops for a bit of refreshment at a brook beside the way. Law, law, call the law.
Whenever I encounter the kind of divinely inspired violence this passage portrays, painting a picture of the Lord as executioner, shattering heads and scattering corpses, it helps me to keep in mind that our enemies, and the Lord’s enemies, are not flesh and blood, but principalities and powers, spiritual rulers of darkness. I can name some of these: poverty, hatred, prejudice, addiction, oppression, injustice, deceit, greed, exploitation, domination, and the list could go on. I find it cathartic to imagine these and other powers that plague my head and heart and inhibit love in the world to be trampled underfoot, crushed and conquered, freeing us to fulfill our dreams of a beloved community. As Led Zeppelin would sing, I can’t stop talkin’ about love (check out the video for a graceful display of “trampling underfoot”). While we listen to Plant and Page talk about love, let’s wag our heads, whistle through our teeth, dance a jig and call the Law, Granny style.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.