Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 37) transports me to a revolutionary day of reckoning where freedom rings in strength for the weak and payback time for the dominant class. The Psalmist sings the ABCs of this independence day, with each 2-verse stanza represented by a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, or aleph-bet as they would say. It’s as simple as 1-2-3 and easy as do-re-mi, with the upright poor finally possessing some property, while the wicked wealthy wither like wilted grass. The supreme confidence in this seismic shift in power emerges in the song’s counsel to the poor listeners: Do not fret. No fretting over the temporary success of the wizards of Wall Street. Don’t get heated up, the Jerusalem Bible translation tells us, over the likes of overpaid CEOs and Bernard Madoff ponsy schemes. They may look like towering cedars but they are no more than pasture grass in the scope of it all. So do not fret.
These landless and oppressed ABC singers are amazingly resilient in their trust in God’s ultimate justice and compassion. They are faithful fretless wonders, worshiping the God they know to be sustaining all the universe, and at the same time caring deeply for the poor and envisioning consequences of life that will bring down the mighty from their thrones. Jesus must have learned these ABCs, and they must have provided some of the inspiration for his parable of wheat and weeds. Don’t worry with uprooting the evil; it’s all gonna work out in the end, he said. Ya reckon? His listeners might have asked. I reckon, he might have responded.
Speaking of fretless wonders, that’s not only a description of Jesus, but it’s the name of one of the great all time guitars, the Gibson Les Paul Custom. (How’s that for a segue?) The relatively tiny frets made playing so smooth and effortless, that it earned the nickname Fretless Wonder. Virtually all the great classic rockers played this guitar, including folks like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Ace Frehly, and the Edge. Asheville’s own Warren Haynes plays the Fretless Wonder, and in honor of our native son , I’ll close with his lyrical response to Psalm 37 as he speaks for all those landless poor who are still trying to live by faith but are wondering how long it might be ‘til this reckoning day comes around: Take away your freedom, strip away your pride, say you know you weren’t born with the blue blood son, so take your place in line, Where’s my mule? Where’s my forty acres? Where’s my dream, Mr. Emancipator? To live this way, I might as well meet my Maker. Where’s my mule? Where’s my mule?
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.