Psalm 80 - Restore us, O God of hosts; let Your face shine, that we may be saved! You brought a vine out of Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. ... Why then have You broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lhm.org.
Mother Superior is afraid of Deloris Van Cartier and for good reason. Deloris is a mess. She needs a sanctuary. Delores is a singer. Her latest audition was after-hours at a seedy joint in south Philly. She didn't get the job. And, to make matters worse, that night, when she left, she took the wrong door and witnessed a murder. Right in front of her, the club owner shoots one of his henchmen for squealing on him to the cops. Now Deloris is a witness, on the run, and needs a sanctuary. The police hide Deloris, the loud-mouth lounge singer, in a convent, much to Mother Superior's chagrin. Because when Deloris joins the choir, she brings the whole scummy world inside that sanctuary, into God's vineyard, and the riff-raff are trampling down the vine, eating all the fruit, just as Mother Superior feared.
That's the beginning of the storyline from Sister Act, the musical. The story addresses a fear of religious people everywhere. Roughly 3,000 years before Sister Act's playwrights imagined the outlook of a fearfully religious nun from South Philadelphia, a Hebrew poet from southern Israel expressed the same fears in a poem known today as Psalm 80. It seems to have been written during a time when ancient Israel was divided. The leaders in the Northern Kingdom were corrupt. They had mixed with the world, and it all came crashing down on their heads. In the year 722 B.C., the Assyrians invaded, broke down their walls, trampled their sanctuary, and scattered the people. The author of Psalm 80 probably lived in the southern part of Israel when it happened. He hears about it and vocalizes his prayer to God in a poem. The poet compares God's people to a vine, and their land is like a vineyard. And like Mother Superior, he does not understand why God would let the world invade His vineyard.
When Jesus said, "I am the true Vine and you are the branches" (John 15:5a), He probably had Psalm 80 in mind. Recognizing Jesus as the Vine lets us see the relationship between the world's mess and God's sanctuary in a new light. Because Jesus embraced the riff-raff, you and me included. He let Himself be trampled, cut down, crucified. And with God's power and compassion, He rose from the dead. He broke down the wall. He welcomes us in, so that we can welcome others—loud mouths, low-lifes, everyone.
When Deloris Van Cartier led the choir in the convent, she taught them how to sing. And in the light of Jesus, maybe we can hear her words as prophetic. She tells her sisters, and us, "When you've got a song worth hearin' there's one thing to do. Just keep your fear from interferin' and let that sucker burst through. Raise your voice! Blast it! Blare it! Stand up and share it! Help the world rejoice!"
WE PRAY: Dear Father, keep our fears from interfering, so that we can help the world rejoice in Jesus. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Read Psalm 80 aloud, recalling the horrific historic circumstances (see 2 Kings 17). Why does the Psalmist have good reason to fear the world (see Psalm 80:13, 16)?
2. Why might Christians think that they have good reasons to fear the world?
3. Read John 15-16. Which of Jesus' words most clearly speak to your fears?
To Download Devotion MP3 to your computer, right click here and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" or "Download Linked File As"