Life in many places has often been pretty rough over the years; people fight, wars arise over land, resources or power grabs. Days are very dark for ordinary people feeling the consequences of conflict.
When things fall apart like that, community rulers try new ways of patching them up and preventing recurrence.
The charter shown here is one such attempt. It’s a page of a 16th century Book of Alliances of Schwyz, in the middle of Switzerland, a transcript of an earlier treaty between confederations or cantons, the Sempach Charter of 10 July 1393. This document sought peace by agreeing that military force would only be used in defence against external threat not between the valley communities. Amongst other things, it laid down the rules of conduct in war:
Feuds are prohibited between the confederates and unity should reign in all military campaigns. The proceeds of war must be divided, monasteries and women spared. Plundering is only permitted after victory.
All well and good, but treaties on the whole don’t have a great track record. They look good but are often ignored. (The Magna Carta, whose 800th anniversary is being celebrated this month, left an important marker for human rights but the treaty itself was much repealed within a few decades.) At such times, the common people suffer again and again. No wonder the writers of the psalms were doubtful about trusting in princes (Psalm 118) or great armies (Psalm 33) – remember that theologygram?
Don’t despair, just look elsewhere
This week’s psalm provides quite a different focus. It opens with the peoples’ cry:
Out of the depths I cry to you O God. Hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! (verses 1, 2)
For there is hope of steadfast love and forgiveness (verses 4, 7).
Out of the depths
Even though it’s over a year since we sang it last, you will surely remember it if you were there; a simple haunting song following Sinead’s tune – though we shall stick more closely to the words of the psalm itself.
We are blessed to have Jo lead us again in this nice song. We need someone, perhaps a young person, to play bodhrán; other instruments and singers please also join in backing the solo and help to lead the refrain:
Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord
Don’t let my cries for mercy be ignored.
The tone of the psalm encourages confidence in divine forgiveness and help. However, it wisely counsels patience:
My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning (v.6)
We shall need a little of that as we take the long flight from Europe to Australia. We have missed making music with the Psalm Singers in the South; so it will be worth the wait! We reconvene on Saturday.