“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble” (Psalm 107:2, NRSV)
I am a fan of murder mysteries and court room dramas. Two genres of television reigned in my home growing up- westerns and detective shows. Folks like Perry Mason, Matlock, and of course Law & Order, were staples in my house. My grandmother watched mostly, and I would sit with her and watch just because.
One of the tried and true scenes in a courtroom drama was the moment when the trial turned to the testimony of the witness. Often, the case would hinge on what one witness had to say in the courtroom. In shows like Matlock and Perry Mason, the witness testimony was the show down, the high stakes drama filled with life or death consequences. Even the mundane moment of swearing-in the witness was infused with tension. The moment that always stood out in my mind was when the judge in some courtroom drama would call out “will the witness please rise?”. Since we the audience already knew the stakes at play in the drama, we knew that the last five, ten or fifteen minutes of the show would be defined by this “testimony”.
Well, despite the fact that these were just dramas, the role of a good witness in any trial cannot be understated. Granted, witness testimony in court cases is often unreliable and needs corroborating evidence, the importance of having someone to verify what happened is always good in relaying the story. And it is to witness verification that our text points.
This 107 Psalm attributed to David is one that is seeking a witness. It is a call to worship and to praise God for God’s goodness and “steadfast love” toward Israel. David calls the people to worship but tells them to show themselves as redeemed by saying something- “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”.
Not unlike the bailiff in those courtroom dramas, David is looking for witnesses. Folks to whom God has saved, redeemed and can stand for God’s name in world.
We have, in the Christian church, taken this call for witnesses to be a call of attendance and not clarion call of presence and being. We expect the preacher to read this Psalm and folks to show up/ out in worship for all of the things that God has redeemed them from. Yet, I believe that David is calling on us to witness as redeemed people in a world that is too divided for its own good.
For too long, the “redeemed of the Lord” have been associated with certain political ideologies and a hypersensitive morality. We have been associated with judgmental values and a holiness that was subject to the whims of politics and power. However, the psalmist tells us to speak up! If we are redeemed, then there is a greater standard for us to speak up for; a greater calling to identify with. David is calling us to stand up for inconvenient truths and complicated realities. Being a witness requires us to risk it all when we identify who is really the Sovereign in this world of pretenders to power.
There is a prophetic responsibility in “saying so”. We cannot just say so when it is easy. “Saying so” means speaking to power and principalities and saying that you are more than just a vote or a constituent. “Saying so” means witnessing to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in body, mind and mouth. “Saying so” means rejecting hypocritical positions and standing up for truth in the face of coercion. My vision of truth comes when the witnesses of the Lord stand up and testify!