Friday, March 5, 2021

Psalm 107.1-3, 17-22: They Cried

Psalm 107 isn't so specific that its lines can't be pulled out to illustrate the infinite number of things from which God has saved God's people. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. (Psalm 107:19) How many people have cried to the Lord? How many people has God saved from their distress? 

Pablo Picasso's masterpiece Guernica was painted in response to a very specific event: the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the Nazi air force in support of Francisco Franco. The town, of little or no strategic value, was attacked over three hours by 25 bombers who dropped 100,000 pounds of explosive and incendiary bombs. Another wave of bombers strafed any survivors trying to flee the village that was now only rubble. The town burned for three days. 

The mural-sized painting (approximately 11 feet by 25 feet) was commissioned in 1936 for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. Picasso was supposed to create a piece for the Spanish Pavilion that followed the Fair's theme celebrating modern technology. Instead, Picasso painted this. 

Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937. Madrid: Museo Reina Sofia.

They cried to the Lord in their trouble. And cried. And cried. And cried.

Psalm 107 is a song that remembers the hesed, the steadfast love, of God for God's people. The psalm calls on those who have lived through a story of salvation to worship and remember and be thankful. 

Guernica is painted in black, white and gray. No color at all. Marks on the body of the horse seem to mimic newspaper print. Picasso read the newspaper accounts that emerged from Guernica shortly after the bombing. The pro-Fascist, pro-Nazi forces worked to change the narrative. They placed empty oil barrels around the town, claiming that the citizens of Guernica burned their own town. 

The first reports were written by George Steer, a South African born journalist covering the Spanish Civil War. He wrote: The whole town of 7,000 inhabitants, plus 3,000 refugees, was slowly and systematically pounded to pieces. Over a radius of five miles round, a detail of the raiders’ technique was to bomb separate caserios, or farmhouses. In the night these burned like little candles in the hills. All the villages around were bombed with the same intensity as the town itself, and at Mugica, a little group of houses at the head of the Guernica inlet, the population was machine-gunned for 15 minutes.

They cried to the Lord in their trouble. And cried. And cried. And cried.

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