Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 50:7-23) transports me to a land where shooting a line of bull doesn’t cut it and we finally learn what to give someone who has everything (literally). Here’s an instance where the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is more entertaining, if not more accurate, than all the others. Verse 8 is a personal favorite, where the RSV has God chastising the worshiping community: I will accept no bull from your house (pardon God’s French). Now there’s a memory verse for you! God explains that the people can’t be reproached for failing to fulfill external rituals of worship. The only problem is, God is not interested in these externals; the people are not giving God what God desires. (We could spend a lot of time analyzing with Carl Jung the deep archetypal meanings of the slaying of the bull, and the differences between Mithraism and Christianity here, but I’ll save that for another post).
For today, we can ask with the poet, what can you give One who owns everything, the great Rancher who owns the cattle on a thousand hills? A nice steak dinner, medium rare, and a bottle of your best vintage goatblood wine? No, God doesn’t have an appetite for bullish external ritual sacrifices. As it turns out, God is hungry for something else entirely. God wants to see some gratitude on the grill, well done. Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High. . . Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor Me.
In a week when we are focusing on the theme of mercy, we can learn from the French. The French word for thank you is merci. What a wonderful connection, one that I don’t completely understand but want to reflect on. Giving thanks as an act of mercy. Try responding to a generous gift next time with a simple, mercy. To top it off, the French phrase for thanksgiving is action de grâce. Gratitude as an act of grace. Merciful and gracious thanks, this is what God feasts on. No bull, Sherlock. We might try praying a line from Sly Stone, I just wanta thank you for letting me be myself again, or give our best Elvis impersonation, after a concert in Paris, merci beaucoup (thank you very much).
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Mercy and Sacrifice.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.