November 30 | Psalm 72:1-14
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A Psalm for the Heavy Headed
by Dan Kidd
At UALC it is part of our weekly liturgy: a prayer over our leaders--national, state, city, community, neighborhood, and for the leaders in our church. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown", they say. Perhaps that's why crowns are out of fashion? Headwear notwithstanding most of us recognize that authoritative leadership is burdensome because authoritative leadership has immeasurable influence over the lives of others. Making decisions about how to allocate or reserve resources in plenty or poverty, determining the least awful response to an altogether terrible event, trying to maintain integrity when you're so often punished for it, and striving for humility when everyone treats you as inhuman... All of that would be difficult enough without the fact that most groups don't agree with each other about how they should be led--their interests in opposition. Fortunately, it's rare that anyone would complain about a leader.
Our Psalmist today has a prayer for their king. Or, more accurately, a prayer over the king for sake of the nation; specifically the needy and oppressed, the weak and brutalized. Because our Psalmist knows what leaders are like. The title doesn't matter much--priest, prophet, patriarch, pastor, employer, judge, king--when their leadership goes sideways they capsize the whole ship. And it's always the vulnerable who are the first and worst to suffer. Widows, orphans, immigrants, prisoners, the poor, the sick, the victimized, the oppressed, and the hopeless desperately rely on the righteousness, mercy, and wisdom of leaders.
It is good news that God is always near to the suffering. It is good news that because the Kingdom of Jesus is breaking into our world through the work of the Holy Spirit our leaders have profound access to the one true King--the Prince of Peace--so that, by Christ's grace, they can lead others lovingly. It is good news that God sends those like Jonah to those like Nineveh's king. And it is good that where every leader--every person--will fail to live out the perfect righteousness or wisdom of God, our one, true King will return and all will be made right again.
"Heavy is the head that wears the crown." But for Jesus, we would be foolish to anticipate a perfectly righteous or wise leader. But because of Christ, we can pray that our leaders might imitate him and bear the fruit of God's Spirit. As our Psalmist recognizes, it's all too easy for leaders to lose sight or heart for those that need their justice and shalom the most. How can we help our leaders, or how can we as leaders, love our neighbors who need our love the most?
Our leaders need our prayers. If you are a leader, you need to be prayed for. God's wisdom, righteousness, and shalom for them and for you.
Praying the Scriptures: This passage provides us with an opportunity to pray for our leaders. Take a minute to sit quietly inviting God's Spirit to bring one or two leaders to your mind. Once you have a leader in mind, review this Psalm and note the portions of the prayer that are relevant to their leadership. Then, spend several minutes praying this Psalm over them--for them and the sake of those they lead.