Selah! The pause that refreshes.
Why do you boast, O mighty one, of mischief done against the godly? All day long you are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good and lying more than speaking the truth. Selah. – Psalm 52:1-3 (NRSV)
This week’s lectionary reading surely brings images of cable news sound bites, morning headlines and breaking news on all our media platforms—most of which are inescapable for some, or essential for others.
In this reading the psalmist ends the commentary with one word, Selah. It is a word that closes the Psalms 72 times. It is defined in several ways.
Selah is translated as “intermission” in the Septuagint, the earliest translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It is significant because it was completed in the second century BCE and was quoted by the Apostle Paul. Some scholars see Selah as a special notation for a pause in the singing or recitation, the start of music accompanying many of the readings, or simply signals a moment to reflect on what has been shared.
Selah in our time offers that space to process and exhale all that we are being exposed to or intentionally welcoming.
As digital technology began evolving some years ago, faith communities were already anticipating a process of Selah—Television Awareness Training by the United Methodist Church, Church of the Brethren and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Center for Media Literacy by Sr. Elizabeth Thoman; and priorities for media justice, media fasting, and public policy by the United Church of Christ.
Then and now, we ask how can our families, congregations and communities be equipped to be critical consumers of the explosion of mass-mediated information and images? Discern veracity and challenge falsehoods?
And just as important, how do we begin to influence or shift what is being shared, written? What are the essential messages and wisely chosen words we must convey—from the morning greetings to a stranger, to the letters to the editor, or even a press statement from our communities of faith?
May we embrace Selah as we explore what needs to be done between now and tomorrow.