A Scepter of Equity

Weddings these days are full of “adaptations.” It is not unusual for those of us who officiate weddings to be surprised with the addition of a reading, poem, or speech that is not part of our normal written liturgy. Sometimes these inclusions enhance the moment….sometimes they don’t. The best of these for me was when a sister read a beautiful poem called These are the Hands about the meaning and beauty of marriage. The worst was a time when I was told that the best man would do a “reading,” and instead he spent about ten drunken minutes talking about the groom’s bawdy behavior in college. He did acknowledge that the bride outshone all those previous girlfriends, however. Yes, this happened during the ceremony, not the reception. I just stood there with my mouth open. After that, I have been careful to ask to see the “readings” before we start. Lord, have mercy!

Our unusual Psalm today is thought to be written as a wedding reading. The king is getting married, and a poem has been written to mark the event:

Psalm 45 (New Revised Standard Version)

My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
    I address my verses to the king;
    my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

You are the most handsome of men;
    grace is poured upon your lips;
    therefore God has blessed you forever.

The psalmist then waxes eloquently about the king being a god, yet anointed by God with the oil of gladness. The writer of Hebrews later connects these verses with Jesus as the messiah, and many commentators see a foretelling of the coming Jewish messiah in these words:

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
    Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;
    you love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
    your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
    daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
    at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

If we connect the dots from this writing to Jesus, one of the things that stand out the most is the phrase “scepter of equity.” The king’s scepter is a visual representation of his power. He points it, and people respond by doing his bidding. So what does it mean to have a scepter of equity?

Merriam-Webster defines equity as justice according to natural law or right: specifically, freedom from bias or favoritism.

That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? He, who invited a prostitute, working class men, immigrants, women, non-Jews, and even a lowly TAX COLLECTOR to follow him surely is the king of equity.

As people who live under the rule of his scepter, do we offer equity in his name? Are our churches, synagogues, temples, and cathedrals places of inclusion or exclusion? Would Jesus feel welcome in our homes?

These are important considerations for us as we collectively wait for Jesus to return. As we pray “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” we need to be sure our places of worship and our homes are ones that would actually welcome him in.

May we be preparing our hearts and homes for Jesus, and all whom Jesus loves. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus! By Kathy Schumacher

Come

Isn’t it exciting to be invited to come to a party or event? Back when all invitations were delivered by mail, it was a thrill to open that small colored envelope that indicated an invitation to a baby shower, birthday party, graduation ceremony, or some other special event. Receiving an invitation was the height of inclusion. Somebody wanted YOU. Your presence was requested. The party would not be the same without you, so COME.

God is the ultimate invitation-giver. The entire bible might be summed up in the word “come.” Come to me, all you weary people. Come to me and rest. Come and be healed. Come and find peace. Just come.

In the 55th chapter of Isaiah, we receive a beautiful invitation. This one is offered to the thirsty, the poor, the hungry, and the people of every nation:

Isaiah 55 (New International Version)

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Even the wicked are invited to come, and we are all invited to seek the Lord. Mercy is found when people seek God.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

In the mystery of this universal invitation, all are invited to come for pardon. This may confuse us. We may question the offer of pardoning to the evil ones who have brought so much destruction to others. Yet God reserves the right to invite whomever he pleases…and it is not for us to question. His thoughts and ways are far higher than ours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it
.

So we have two jobs today. One is to accept the invitation to come before the Lord and receive all of his mercy, pardon, and blessing. The other is to extend that invitation to the most vulnerable and hurting among us. Go, and do likewise. Or better still, come.

Come and See the Beauty of Creation by Wende Pritchard