Peeling Back the Layers…

Posted: July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

pocket-changeA wise sage once explained to me that the reason we humans are the way we are is because we have our noses pressed up against the wall, and so we can only see what’s right in front of us and have no idea what’s on the rest of the wall. If we step back from the wall, she said, then we can see the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world. “Light shining in the darkness” you might say. Unfortunately, the more we see, the more complicated the world gets – the more messy things get. The light doesn’t bring clarity or understanding. Maybe that is why John 1 says, “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  But such is life and I’m sure many of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I spend time with God’s people here in Trenton, I am constantly learning and absorbing what I see and hear. I can safely say, however, that I have found not one easy answer or one quick fix to any of the issues with which people are struggling.

Take for example begging or panhandling. In my last blog entry, I talked about Jack and some of the issues that he faces as he seeks to find his way in this world, which at this moment includes panhandling. It seems like there should be an easy answer to this for Christians. In both the Gospel of Luke and Matthew, Jesus says, “Give to everyone who begs from you” (Luke 6:30a). Isn’t this a simple command? If someone begs, Jesus says we should give to them, no questions asked. Unfortunately, it’s so not that easy!

One thing that complicates this is the fact that not all panhandling is created equal. Some panhandling takes Jack’s form: standing on the side of the road holding a sign,patiently waiting for the Spirit to move the hearts of the passers-by. Other panhandling is like what happens often at the Trenton Transit Center: person after person coming up to you (or me) asking for a dollar, or some food, or help to pay for a bus ticket, or any number of other requests. Many of the requests  are filled with emotion (maybe practiced, maybe genuine). I don’t always have the change on me, but when I do I try to respond with what I can. A couple of days ago a gentleman asked me for help and all I had was 50 cents or a five-dollar bill. Since I don’t give out fives, I gave him the 50 cents. He seemed grateful. As I walked in the door to the train station, by the McDonald’s, a woman approached me and asked for some food. I agreed and as we were walking into the fast food joint, she asked me if I could also spare a couple bucks for a bus ticket. I told her I could give her a dollar (once I broke the five). I put her food on my debit card and asked if I could get five ones. She leaned over to me and said, “I could really use the five.” I told her I could only afford a dollar, which may or may not be true, but its what I told her.  I gave her the dollar and we walked out. On our way out, the guy I had given the 50 cents saw me and said, “You gave to her, but not to me?” Needless to say I was a little annoyed, but in my shame I brought him a dollar and asked his name. “Give to everyone who begs from you.” Uff da. I went home after that very distraught. I asked myself, “Why don’t they just go panhandle on the side on the road or sit on the wall with a sign, waiting for the Spirit to act just like Jack and others like him do?” Something you don’t know (and I didn’t learn until this morning from Jack and another guy Keith), is that panhandling on the side of the road is not for the faint of heart. These two men told me stories of having hot coffee and beer bottles thrown at them, of being spit at, yelled at, shamed and degraded. They’ve been propositioned and even teased. Keith told me the story of how one driver held a twenty dollar bill out the window and when he got up to the car, the driver pulled it back in and said, “Go find a job, loser.” My heart was breaking as they were sharing these stories with me. I thought a lot about the verse that follows Jesus command to give to all who beg: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Why do humans do such things to other humans? How can we? What is it in our hearts that allow such behavior toward another being created in God’s image? Having heard those stories, I understand a little more why some choose to take a more active form of panhandling: even though the might be ignored, at least they can be treated like human beings.    

On my wanderings through Trenton today, I came across a fellow that I hadn’t seen in a couple of months. We’ll call him Jack. Jack grew up in the Princeton area. He is 28 years old and was laid off by a bank a year and a half ago. He loves coffee and all things techy; the former he drinks every once and a while and the latter he hasn’t seen for quite a while. I first encountered Jack while he was on a corner off of one of the route 1 exits in Trenton. He was holding a sign that simply said: “HOMELESS PLEASE HELP”. Yes, Jack is homeless and yes he was panhandling (begging).

panhandling sign

Before I go any further, I want to say that I have heard all of the arguments about giving money to panhandlers.  I know that many social service organizations and many sociologists say that direct cash donations to an individual are not really helpful to the situation of the individual. I know that many people who beg for money from churches are looking for easy money. I know that many people are concerned about how the money is going to be used (i.e. for alcohol/drugs/etc.). I know that even Paul in 2 Thessalonians says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (3:10b).

Despite all of that knowledge, when I see someone standing at a street corner with a sign and I have a dollar or two, I roll down the window and offer it to them. However, while I am handing them the dollar, I ask them their name. Most of them give it without thinking. Sometimes they are surprised. Sometimes I tell them my name. What they do not realize, however, is that in telling me their name, they have opened the door to a relationship. Most of the time the name allows me simply to include them in my prayers. Other times, it allows me to roll down the window the next time I see them and say, “Hey, Jack! How are you?” This has happened about 3 times and each time I have called them by name, their eyes have lit up in joy.

That’s what happened with Jack anyway. This happened back in January and I saw him a few times through the winter. We went for coffee a time or two and I learned a lot about him. We formed a pretty neat relationship, and then one day he was gone. Just like that.

I didn’t see him until today and what a day it was.

I found him at his old stomping grounds off of exit 1. He seemed glad to see me. I was very glad to see him. I have been wearing my collar around Trenton since July 1st and so I think that threw him off a little bit, but he knew that I’m a preacher. I offered to take him out to coffee and so we went. We must’ve talked for almost an hour about lots of topics. After we left the coffee shop we walked around and found ourselves back at his spot. He had told me some sad and outrageous stories about what panhandling has been like. He has told me how infrequently people will actually give him anything. Mind you, he is very passive about the whole thing. He just stands there holding his sign, trying to catch people’s eyes, but not staring so as to make people uneasy. Anyway, he invited me to sit across the street and just watch for a while. Since I have been very curious about this I agreed, despite the 90+ degree heat.

I sat there for 30 or 40 minutes watching car after care drive by. I think one person might’ve looked at him, but not one person offered him anything.  Despite all of the things I wrote earlier, where is the compassion and mercy? Did we forget Jesus’ command in the sermon on the mount to give to all who beg. Have we completely left these men and women to their own troubles? Jack says that the worst day is actually on Sunday when people are dressed to the nines going to or coming home from church. The only thing he sees is people trying to avoid looking at him. How can so many of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus walk or drive past those who passively seek a little help?

That’s the “No Mercy” part of my title. Here comes the “No Justice” piece.

So I had been watching for about 30 or 40 minutes like I said, and all of a sudden, Jack sees the police coming down the ramp and he quickly tries to hide his sign and make like he is just crossing the street. However, they knew what he was doing and they spotted me sitting across the way, assuming correctly that we were together. Jack and I started walking in the opposite direction, but the police officers put their lights on, turned around, and drove next to where we were on the sidewalk. Jack has been stopped by the police a number of times, but usually they just “shoo” him away. Since I was wearing my collar they might’ve been curious as to why I was with him. They got out and split up coming up to each of us. They said that they received a call complaining about 2 people who were “agressively panhandling.” They asked me if I was with him (pointing to Jack) and I said I was his friend. They insisted on taking down our information. Jack said he didn’t have ID, but I willingly took out mine, though I continued to ask why they stopped us. I asked what the difference is between panhandling and aggressive panhandling. While I was asking it seemed like one of the officers was getting annoyed at me and even placed his hand on his weapon – perhaps trying to intimidate me. By this time the other officer had let Jack go and now both were on me and getting annoyed. I let it drop and left, after telling them to have a good day (My Minnesota-Nice rearing its head).

Jack had walked on a bit and I caught up to him. He was pretty angry, but he cooled down after a bit. After that we parted ways, but I hope I will see him again soon.

I was going to go straight home, but I decided to stop into city hall (since we were right in front of it) and ask someone the difference between regular panhandling and aggressive panhandling (which I know is against the city code). The security guard directed me to the clerk’s office so I headed downstairs. When I got to the basement-level office I expressed my question to the three ladies in the office. One of them said that she could help me because she had just looked at that for some reason (unrecalled by her)  and knew exactly where to go. She also told me I could find it online. According to the city code, section 201.10.B “The City Council recognizes a constitutional right to beg or solicit in a peaceful and nonthreatening manner.” Forget about whether or not giving to people who panhandle helps them or hurts them in the long run! The Trenton City Code names the act of panhandling a constitutional right! The code does continue to talk about aggressive forms of panhandling which includes approaching, speaking to, or following a person before or after soliciting or begging. They also include physical contact (of a person or an occupied vehicle) and blocking/interfering with safe passage as forms of aggressive panhandling. They also need to keep back 10 feet from ATMs or bank doors. Nothing about signs! Nothing about standing still! Nothing that Jack did was illegal. So where is the justice? Why did the police decide that taking aside a homeless man and a pastor was worth their time? Doesn’t Trenton have a lot of other issues that need their concern and care?

I know it has been too long since I have written a blog entry, but I knew that today’s events warranted some words. I invite your comments and further reflections on what I have written.

Please continue to pray for Trenton. Please continue to pray for me that I may have open ears and guided feet.

Peace,

Beau

Many Distractions…

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

First of all, let me apologize to my readers for not having written in quite some time – the past few weeks have been an adventure. Let me explain.

In January things started to get a little tight for Lydia and I so I knew I needed to find some work.  One of the first things I did (at the suggestion of a couple of people) was get a resume together and applied to be a substitute school teacher in a nearby district. The process, however, was not going to be short, and by the time I got to the district office to fill out paperwork, I was told that a number of people had already applied for the open positions. I left the office feeling less than hopeful, wondering what I was going to do. The next day I stopped in at the corner Rite-Aid pharmacy and saw a notice in the front window that they were looking for a part-time cashier. I thought to myself:  “Wow! A part-time job that’s a minute’s walk from home just landed in my lap! Praise God!” I picked up an application, brought it home, and immediately began filling it out. Just before I finished filling in the last section, I got a phone call from my landlord asking if I was handy at all. I told him that my Dad taught me a few things over the years and that I was a quick learner. He offered me a job at a good rate right over the phone. He told me to come into his office the next day to discuss the details and some jobs he needed done.

While I was in his office, his office suite-mate asked me if I had any writing and computer skills. I told him I knew a thing or two, and so he offered me some internet work for his company. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, that I went home feeling pretty awestruck at God’s ability to provide. Just the day before I was worried about what I was going to do, and the next day I’m offered two different jobs that were flexible and paid decently. How great is our God?

So over the next days and weeks I began working for my landlord doing various handyman things such as removing snow, cleaning and painting apartments, and various and other sundry things. I also did some computer work for the other guy. Not two weeks into the job, all of the ducks lined up for the substitute teaching gig! (Can you believe my first day of subbing was at the school where one of my former parishioners works so she could show me around?! Thanks, Nancy!) When I told my landlord about this, he said he wanted to make it work for me if I wanted to sub and still work for him. Did I mention that also have been preaching at some of the Lutheran churches around New Jersey some of the Sundays of the past few months? Wow! Right? I cried out to God for work and God definitely heard my cries. This should be something to celebrate, isn’t it?

About three weeks into all of this I realized that I was spending less and less time doing what I set out to do: using my “ears and feet” in Trenton. I had let the need for work and money become a higher priority than getting to know God’s people here in Trenton. After discussing this situation with Lydia and a couple friends I realized that I needed to set certain days of the week that would be my paid-working days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and days that would be my non-paid days ( Tuesdays and Thursdays). Then I got sick and that plan got foiled. Now that I am better, however, I plan to get back into that routine as best as I can.

There is no doubt that I need to work and generate some income for my family (just as Paul of the Scriptures made tents), but it shouldn’t be at the neglect of the mission God has set me on. Please pray for Lydia and me as we continue on this journey!

I am unashamedly a theologian. I know God has gifted me with an inquisitive and absorbent mind. I ask questions of God, Scripture, and established theology, and sometimes find some pretty neat possible answers. I appreciate mystery, but am not afraid to open up the hood and try to figure out how things work or why things are the way they are. I studied religion in undergrad and got my masters at a Lutheran seminary. So when people ask ME questions about God, Scripture, or theology, I feel like I have something to say. I feel like it’s expected of me to have the answers and to teach others the right (or better) way of thinking. However…

In our weekly Bible study-gathering of Lutheran pastors yesterday, we read the appointed gospel for the upcoming Sunday which is John 1:29-42. In this passage, there is a dialogue in which Jesus asks two of his future-disciples who were following him, “What are you looking for?” They respond with a question, “Rabbi, where are you staying (or dwelling or abiding)”. Jesus doesn’t see this as an opportunity to preach or to begin a theological discourse (which he will do lots of in John’s Gospel). Instead, he simply says, “Come and see.” 

“Come and see.” It’s an invitation, not an answer. It’s an opening, not an ending. It’s a conversation, not a lecture or a soliloquy. 

Here’s where that “However” from above continues. At our Bible study, it occurred to me that over the years, with the “answers” that I have given others, I have ended conversations rather than creating a dialogue. I have perpetuated a system that said, “I have knowledge and you do not,” or “I am the expert. If you have any questions, I’ll have the right (or better) answer than what you have,” or “Don’t worry about thinking through it yourself, I’ll do the thinking for you.” This may sound harsh, but I think it’s fairly accurate, and so I lay my sin before you – those of you who honor me by reading this.

At that weekly Bible study, God’s Holy Spirit used this piece of Scripture to show me my sin, and revealed to me a better way of living – or in this case – a better way of responding. When I am asked a question, instead of spouting off answers that my little brain has come up with, I should take my cue from the Messiah and invite the inquirer to “come and see.” I see this as an invitation to join a conversation with other inquirers and disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s an opportunity to allow others to work the theological-muscles that we have all been given. It’s an acknowledgement that life, especially a life of faith, is an adventure that God has placed before us and are invited to travel together in fellowship, knowing that not one of us has THE map or THE key or THE answers.

It can’t be ignored that I my brain is constantly on theology-mode, but I think I can do a better job of helping others explore their own questions and inviting them into holy conversation where the Holy Spirit will surely be at work.  

Please pray for me in this and please continue to pray for the city and people of Trenton.

Peace,

Beau

Today Lydia and I went downtown in to Trenton to watch the re-enactment of the famous Battle of Trenton which was a crucial battle in the American Revolution. There were hundreds of re-enactors participating, hundreds of observers lining the streets, hundreds of shots were fired off during the 30-ish minute scene. The troops moved in formation up and down the streets of Trenton almost exactly as they would have moved during the original battle back in 1776. Neither Lydia nor I have ever seen anything quite like this.

While I was watching this important scene from history being recreated, however, I couldn’t get excited like many of the other members of the crowd who cheered on the colonists as they pushed back the British regulars and Hessian forces. Every blank-shot that was fired was in memory of this historic victory, but I couldn’t help thinking about the shots that were fired 17 hours prior on another street in Trenton.Image

Unlike the shots fired by the re-enactors, however, these shots were not blanks. These bullets ended the life of Robert Wright and wounded another. In 2013, hundreds of shots have been fired in the city of Trenton leaving many wounded, and killing 40, Robert Wright being the 40th. It is not known why last night’s shots were fired, but regardless of the specific reason, those bullets were a part of the Battle of Trenton. No, those who pulled the trigger were not fighting for American independence from British tyranny. No, the fired bullets were not “justifiable” acts of war. But there IS a war going on in America and a battle IS continuing to be fought in Trenton, and so far Trenton is losing. 

Hundreds of people came out today to celebrate and commemorate the results of those hundreds of shots fired hundreds of years ago on the streets of Trenton, while it seems as if very little concern is given to the fact that Robert Wright and 39 others have been killed on those same streets this year alone.

Before the American Revolution commenced, the leaders needed to convince the colonists that revolution was the only option. They had to answer the question of “Why?” over and over again. They debated and argued and persuaded until everyone understood “why” a war for independence was so important and “why” they must fight. Rare was the bullet senseless that left a barrel. Everyone knew the stakes. Everyone knew the cost.

So to the bullet that killed Robert Wright and wounded his companion I ask, “Why?” To the bullets that killed the 39 others I ask, “Why?” To my fellow residents of Trenton I ask, “Why is this battle continuing?”, “Why are you letting shots being fired without giving your permission?” “Did the shooters convince you and persuade you allow them to shoot their guns in our city?” “Why are you not fighting back?” (I don’t mean with guns), “Why are you celebrating battles of the past while ignoring the battles being fought here and now?”

And on this day that we remember the Slaughter of the Innocents (when Herod killed all the babies looking for the child born to be King) I ask of God, “Why? Why are you allowing this violence to continue? Why are your children continuing to be killed here in Trenton? Why does this city continue to be the trenches of violence and crime? Where is the hope you heralded so many years ago? Why do you delay in bringing peace and good-will? Why do men and women continue to seek their own interests and not care for our brothers and sisters living in the crossfire?”

O Christ who came with us to dwell, cast out the sin and darkness that resides in Trenton. Send your light and forge weapons of love. Stir up the people of Trenton to be angry and outraged over the violence that is so freely poured out. Raise up an army on behalf of Robert Wright and the other 39 dead to fill the streets of Trenton with light and hope. Give peace to Robert Wright and his family and loved ones as they mourn his death and may he rest now in the Father’s glorious presence with all the saints in light. This I ask in your great name. Amen.    

4 Names

Posted: December 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

But now thus says the Lord,
   he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

————————

In the last two days I have learned the names of 4 people who are a part of my world. 

First, I met Monica. She has been in the Dunkin’ Donuts that I have visited a couple of times on Broad Street. From what I saw, she stays around there often – likely homeless. I think its great that the folks who run that Dunkin’ Donuts let folks hang out in there to stay warm, especially now that its gotten cold. Let us pray that Monica has some place warm to sleep tonight. 

Next I met Timon (pronouned “Tea-moan”). He’s our mailman. I found it really fascinating that he remembered that the mailboxes on the front of our building are gold. I needed help getting our mail because we misplaced the key and he graciously got it out for us (after asking for ID). He said that he will likely only be on our route for 1-2 more months. I wonder why? Let us pray that Timon is able to stay healthy as he walks the streets of Trenton delivering mail, especially during these cold months. 

Third is Poppy. He lives just next door and is the guy who our landlord employs to salt and shovel our sidewalks. I met him last night as I myself was doing an early sweep of our steps. He said he wanted to get some salt out early so that it wouldn’t be so bad in the morning, even though the landlord is only going to pay him for the morning. I’m glad I met him and I’m glad he takes this task so seriously. Let us pray the Poppy is able to faithfully discharge this task this winter and that he is able to feed his family.

Fourth is Jimmy. Jimmy was standing on the side of the road as we got off of Route 1 this evening. He had a sign. We had brought some of the donated items from Resurrection with us today – like the gloves and a blanket – just in case we were to see someone who looked cold. I rolled down the window and asked him if he needed a blanket. I handed him the blanket. It wasn’t a super special blanket, but he was very excited about it. He said that a buddy was staying with him and his cat in his tent. Then I asked him his name. He said it was Jimmy. Let us pray for Jimmy tonight and ask the Lord to keep him warm under the fibers of that blanket. 

To know a person’s name is to hold a gift. A person’s name when spoken unleashes power. One of the gifts that I thank God for is the ability to remember people’s names. Whenever visitors came to Resurrection I made sure that I asked their name either before the service or immediately after. When I could give them communion using their name I knew that it meant a lot. Or when a visitor would come by a second time and I would greet them by name, they beamed with joy at being remembered.

Our names are one of the few things that we carry with us no matter where we are on our pilgrimage on this planet. And so when someone else holds our name, maybe it gives us a sense of not being alone on our journey. Maybe it connects us to one another and keeps us from simply being remembered as “the homeless woman at Dunkin’ Donuts,” or “the mailman,” or “the guy who didn’t put enough salt on the front steps after the first snow.” No – now these people have names, and I cannot just think of them as throwaways or nobodies. Each of these that I met and now hold the names of are beautiful Children of God who I am called to minister to and with in this community. I thank God for the gift of the names of Monica, Timon, Poppy, and Jimmy, and I pray that during my time in Trenton they remain with me as symbols and touchstones of the power of God at work in the world. 

Blessed Advent,

Beau

The Psalm of Trenton

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Every Thursday morning when I sit down to pray, Psalm 80 is placed before me. Since moving to Trenton, however, this psalm has taken on a whole new meaning. Read through the psalm below and then let me share my reflections with you.

Psalm 80
1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
2  before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God;
      let your face shine, that we may be saved.
4 O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts;
      let your face shine, that we may be saved.
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
11 it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15  the stock that your right hand planted.
16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
18 Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
      let your face shine, that we may be saved.

————-

First of all, this psalm is saturated with faith and hope in the power of God. You can’t read verses like “Stir up your might and come to save us!”and the refrain “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” without hearing the profound faith of the writer. Verses 4-6, however, highlight one of the problems that our modern ears potentially could have with a psalm like this. At least in contemporary Lutheran theology, we don’t generally like to speak of God as being angry with our prayers, and we certainly refrain whenever possible from implicating God as the source of suffering as the writer does when she writes, “YOU have fed them with the bread of tears…” or “YOU make us the scorn of our neighbors.” In the eyes of the psalmist (and most writers of Scripture) God is all-powerful, at work in both the good times and the bad. I sometimes think that in our contemporary theology we have gone so far to the side of saying that “God has NO hand in the bad/evil/suffering in the world” that we are hard-pressed to say that God has power to actually do any good either (For a non-contemporary-read on this topic, check out Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will where he makes the distinction between the Hidden God and the Revealed God). But I digress.

Next, even though this psalm was written concerning the plight of Israel following the Babylonian exile, I can imagine it having been written/spoken/prayed not long ago by a long-time resident of Trenton-proper.  I hear in it the pleas and cries of those who love the city. I hear in it the pleas and cries of those in the city who are hungry and suffering. I hear in it the feelings of shame and scorn that are cast on Trenton by other communities. Verses 8-11 tell the story of the founding of Trenton and the vital role that its industry had in the country and world. The words of verse 11 (“it sent out it branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River”) could be substituted with the words bolted to the Warren Street Bridge which read “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.” Verses 12 and 13 speak of the loss of industry and vitality, the violence and the crime, the carelessness and filth that have brought Trenton to its knees. Though long-time residents are proud of Trenton’s history, its laurels have wilted and its time for restoration. The psalmist then implores God to “look down from heaven, and see; [to] have regard for this vine, the stock that [God’s] right hand has planted.” Verse 16 speaks of those who have “burned it with fire” and have “cut it down.” Perhaps this is speaking of the corrupt politicians and the zealous gang leaders who have ransacked the city’s financial as well as human resources. Perhaps its speaking of us who simply use or have used Trenton to meet our own needs and then leave it behind as a city to be forgotten. Verse 17 is where we get to the Messiah – the one at God’s right hand – “the one whom you made strong for yourself.” This is who the psalm writer is waiting for God to send into action. This is the one by whom God’s face will shine on God’s people. This is the one who will “give us life” so that we are able to call on name of the Lord as it’s written in verse 18. The psalm ends with a plea for: “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!” This is the plea of Trenton, that God would restore it to be a city with purpose again – that it would again be a beacon at the crossroads of the northeast.

After only having been a resident of Trenton for a month, I don’t claim in any way, shape, or form to be an expert on the city or its people, but it has been placed on my heart and I truly believe that God is waiting to bring restoration. During this Advent season as we await the promise of the Messiah, may this psalm be lifted up as a prayer on behalf of Trenton. And may we, like the psalmist herself, boldly place our faith and hope in the power of God.

Give ear, O Shepherd of New Jersey,  you who lead Trenton like a flock!
You who are enthroned even above the state house and the War Memorial, shine forth
    before Chambersburg, Broad Street, and Stuyvesant.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.