July 4, 2020

The Saints' Last Asylum

Save me, O God, by your Name, and vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.
For the insolent have risen against me, the ruthless seek my life; they do not set God before them.
—Psalm 54:1-3

Psalm 54 was written at a time when David had been betrayed by one he trusted. In his case, the betrayal might well have resulted in death. In most of our cases, the danger is more emotional and spiritual, the real damage being the destruction of trust. Regarding the first part of this psalm, Calvin's viewpoint is traditional, but I like the way he explains it:

Though all help must ultimately come from God, there are ordinary methods by which he generally extends it. When these fail, and every earthly stay is removed, he must then take the work into his own hands. It was in such a situation that David here fled to the saints’ last asylum, and sought to be saved by a miracle of divine power. 

There are really no ordinary methods by which trust can be restored after the betrayal of a friend. For such help, we, too, must flee to the saints' last asylum... a miracle of divine power.

It's just a coïncidence that this passage falls on July 4, but today I can't help but meditate on all who reached out to our country as their last asylum. When their own homes, their own peoples, sometimes even their own families betrayed or rejected them, God brought them to a new land. Indeed, the inscription on the symbol that most would agree represents our welcome to them reads:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! [Emma Lazarus]
Our nation is not God, but as a people made in God's image, we have long seen it as our mission to offer asylum to those who long for a new beginning. There have always been those among us who resented immigrants and have done all they can to reject what they have to offer. In recent years, it appears that this attitude has held sway in our nation. But the pendulum will swing once again toward justice, and toward a renewed affirmation of our place in the kingdom of God: Mother of Exiles, a place where the outsider is brought in from the cold. Let us not leave to divine interference what we ourselves have been divinely called to do.

O God, keep our whole country under your protection. Wipe out sin from this land; lift it up from the depths of sorrow, O Lord, our shining light. Save us from deep grief and misfortune, Lord of all nations. Bless us with your wisdom, so that the poor may not be oppressed and the rich may not be oppressors. Make this a nation having no ruler except God, a nation having no authority but that of Love; in Jesus' Name, who taught me to pray: Our Father...
—Toyohiko Kagawa


The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
—Emma Lazarus (1883)

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