One of the defining experiences of our Street Psalms community is a series of theological conversations that we call “intensives,” in which we consider how big ideas impact the way we live, lead and serve on the margins of our cities. During one of those intensives, called City of Joy, we sometimes explore the ambiguity in which God’s beloved city, Jerusalem, represents in scripture both the heights and depths of the human experience. One of the passages that we sometimes consider is Psalm 48, in which the city itself – its walls, buildings, and towers – become an urban temple and sanctuary for an encounter with God.
In order to lean into this Psalm, I recently paraphrased and personalized this song of scripture to my own city, Denver. This was a good experience for me, and I would invite you to do the same for your own city.
1The Lord is magnificent and marvelous, deserving of praise like none other!
Scripture points us toward Jerusalem– Mount Zion – as the matchless place where humans encounter God and lift their praise. My home is in another city:Denver,Colorado, at the foot of theRocky Mountains. Even here, our highest praise is reserved for God.
2 Speaking of our city, isn’t Denver itself magnificent? Just to mentionDenver conjures images of a gleaming metropolis nestled against spectacular snow-covered peaks. How blessed we are to live here!
Like other great cities “set upon a hill” (well, okay – Denver itself is a flat place, but it borrows glory from the nearby mountains), the Mile High City sparks imagination, inspires music, and draws people from around the world to visit, to seek their fortune, or even to relocate, trading the harsher rhythms of places like Chicago or L.A. for that laid-back Denver groove.
3 God is present in this city. Never forget that it is God who has gifted this place and these people with such an abundance of beauty and resource.
4 There have been difficult times forDenver: Flood and fire nearly wiped it from the face of the earth before it could even get started. Cycles of boom and bust have been devastating at times – especially to the poor, taking everything from families and communities at the bottom and margins of society. Xenophobia and racism have found footholds in Denver: we remember with shame the Sand Creek Massacre, the anti-Chinese riots, the KKK’s influence in local government in the 1920’s, and the persistent patterns of segregation and neglect that marginalize communities in so many cities.
5 Yet somehow, thanks be to God, we Denverites manage to transcend that legacy, coming together to imagine and build a great city.
6 Dr. King observed that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We have lived that truth inDenver. The purveyors of ignorance and exclusion have their day, from time to time, focusing their wrath on scapegoats drawn so often from vulnerable communities. Fear is their only song.