Looking for the The Lowly Man
This “lowly man” in Psalm 102 laments loss and destruction of hope. This “lowly man,” in a weakened and desperate state, despairs if God can even hear his plea: “My body is stricken, withered like grass, too wasted even to eat food.” (v 4) This “lowly man” is reduced to eating ashes as bread, while those in power revile him and curse his name. This “lowly man” of this ancient time pleads for God’s sovereign justice and mercy to restore what is lost and repair hope. Still the shadow of despair and injustice shrouds the horizon for this “lowly man.”
Today, walk past this “lowly man” on the street. He cries out for access to health care for himself and his family. He visits a food pantry or a soup kitchen for just a little food to feed himself and his family because his low wage job does not allow him to provide enough. He struggles to pay the bills and risks predatory loan rates hoping against hope something will change. He pleads for God’s sovereign justice and mercy to offer some glimmer of hope for him and for his family. Still the shadow of despair and injustice shrouds the horizon for this “lowly man.”
Jesus, in the wonderful story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) asks a compelling question. He didn’t ask the lawyer if the person needing help was a neighbor (the question the lawyer asked); he asked who proved himself to be a good neighbor. The lawyer had to reply, “The one who showed mercy.”
“Go, and do the same,” Jesus replied. Neighborliness is not a measure of others; it is a measure of who we are and how we act toward those in despair and hopelessness. It is a measure of how we understand the Gospel of God offered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Today, citizen and legislator face the same challenge: do we serve the powerful and strong, or do we serve the “lowly man.” The prophet Micah challenges us, “What is it God wants of you? Only this, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). When we ask of God, “But when did we serve you, when did we care for you, when did we feed you, when did we offer you justice, when did we offer mercy…?” I hope we will hear God’s answer, “You were a good neighbor when you served justice and mercy to the ‘lowly man,’ in that moment, you were a good neighbor to me.”
God is watching and wondering when we will offer justice and mercy to the “lowly man.” God is watching and wondering.
The Reverend Dr. R. Stan Runnels, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City