A fine sharp frost this morning, crackling under foot and glittering in the early sunshine. It is the privilege of country-dwellers like us to observe the changing seasons at first-hand; so when we sing in the Canticle of Daniel, ‘frost and snow, bless the Lord!’ we have only to look out of the window to see the frost doing precisely that. The pastoral imagery of the psalms also comes alive when one lives at close quarters with sheep and cattle, field and farrow. But life in the country is not all roses and rapture, any more than the psalms are all praise and thanksgiving. There is a darker side. The stagnant water lying on top of the heavier soils is a poignant reminder of just how difficult this summer has been for many farmers. The psalmist, too, knows terror, grief and despair as well as joy and fulfilment. No wonder, then, that politics has its highs and lows, its moments of triumph and moments of failure. No life, no nation, can escape difficulty or danger.
Today all eyes are on the United States of America. ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is a well-known phrase in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It sums up the idealism of those early years, and whether we take the source to be Locke or Cumberland or some other thinker, it is difficult not to be moved. There is something optimistic and sun-shiney about them that no amount of frost, in the form of war or economic failure, can quite overpower. They represent what the world, rightly or wrongly, expects of the people of the United States. Today as we watch U.S. citizens elect their President we know that whoever is chosen will have in his hands the well-being not only of his fellow citizens but of much of the rest of the world as well. Let us pray for him, for without prayer his task will be an impossible one; and if you have no words with which to pray, take one of the psalms, e.g 70 (71), and substitute ‘president’ for ‘king’. It might transform your understanding of the psalms as well as of American politics.