Tuesday 26th May 2020 @ 10:39 am
I was asked to participate in the ministry of Dundrum Methodist by providing a ‘thought for the day from a psalm’ … which was recorded for their website. It was a joy to do it.
Below is the text. Just a thought …
It is a pleasure to be sharing with you for a few minutes this morning … part of me in apprehensive – because the Psalm I am sharing is not a happy psalm. It is not an ancient writing that I go to when I want to sense built up and encouraged – it is not a happy go to scriptural place of encouragement … it is the opposite!
And maybe –something deep within me speaks ‘ hang on, we’ve nearly 3 months of this strange new world, we have read the psalms of pain, we have noted the times scripture addresses our troubles, we have sat in silence at the horror of it all and we have read from the despair of Job, from the doom and judgment of the prophets … in fact some have used these writings to hint that God might be punishing us? I do not subscribe to any theology that has a punitive God in the midst of it – it seems to run up against Grace too much.
But, I digress.
I have trouble, with just bringing trouble from the text once again.
These are tough words from the Psalms – but they are honest words – they are tough words but they are words that come from the heart of the writer,
words asking where are you God – what is going on here?
Why is my life looking like this?
why does everything around me seem dark?
Note that I am choosing to sit with the words as they come to me, not with an interpretation that goes into these words being connected to the sons of Korah – whose whole family were brutally punished for an act of disobedience – that’s a whole other sermon.
This is an invitation
An invitation to sit with the text as it is.
Selected verses from Psalm 88
“May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.
But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor — darkness is my closest friend.”
It’s interesting, isn’t it – the psalm doesn’t end well, like most of the others?
There is no, ‘ah but, I know you are God and so everything will turn out OK!’
There is no happy ending, no quaint turn of phrase to keep the universe functioning as it should …
Because it is there at the start.
I left one verse out in my selected reading. The first verse.
“Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.”
The writer knows where to take their troubles. And there is no holding back. The writer tells God what he/she thinks – and that, at least, is good news.
God is not distant or far off. God will not be offended by any prayer you manage to make. So, if it works, and if it is needed, take your inspiration from this psalm, and so many similar psalms … be honest to God.
God can take it.
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