Thousands of years before Jesus’ crucifixion, His ancestor David wrote:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Psalms 22:1-2 NIV
David’s pain is redolent throughout his Psalms, but it could not compare to the anguish of the cross. Jesus knew his role in history; he knew he had to die. But the gruesome manner of His death must have been a shock even to His fit, healthy system.
Christ’s wrists were nailed so that they carried the weight of his upper body and the bones would tear apart. His chest heaved forward, making it impossible for the lungs to continue working. His legs pulled downward onto the nails in his feet, searing flesh and bone. The guards pierced his side with a spear, then stuffed the wound with a vinegar-soaked cloth to intensify the pain. His burning lungs had breath for only one last utterance.
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) Mark 15:34
When so many humans are suffering, we are reminded that Jesus suffers with us. We also look forward to His good news.
I pray you all have good news in your future.
When we turn toward the Lord, we turn away from sin.
King David committed the most heinous of sins against one of his army commanders, Uriah. While Uriah was away fighting battles for King David, David slept with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and got her pregnant. David was a creative sinner; he devised a scheme to hide his adultery from Uriah. He gave him a break from the battles to come home to his wife. But Uriah refused, instead camping with his troops. He couldn’t in good conscience relax in the comfort of his home and his wife’s bed, when his troops were still camped and battle-ready.
David had assumed that if Uriah slept with Bathsheba, his sin would go unnoticed and Uriah would think the child his own. Failing in this deception, David then had Uriah sent to the front line to battle a powerful enemy–a suicide mission, or in this case, a homicide mission. Finally, David took Uriah’s widow to be his wife.
Later, the prophet Nathan visited King David and admonished him for his sin, warning that he had foreseen the child’s death. David begged the Lord’s forgiveness in Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. –Psalms 51:1-2
Sadly, the child died. But God ultimately forgave David and, despite his sins, God promised that our Messiah would descend from David’s lineage. We can take heart in this and be confident of God’s promise of forgiveness in our lives, too.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not his benefits–
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
— Psalms 103:2-5
Yesterday I blogged about David’s Psalms, and his prayers of supplication for God to deliver him from pain and persecution. But there are prayers of praise as well. Psalm 103 is a shining example. The hope and joy exuded in verses 2-5 is marvelous! However, I have to say that I am still waiting to have my long-lost youth “renewed like the eagle’s.” (Wouldn’t that be marvelous?)
Later in the Psalm, David proclaims:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him.
— Psalms 103:11
I always have a problem when coming across a Bible verse that invokes the fear of the Lord. I wonder if the word “fear” is mistranslated. When I read such passages, I think instead of “awe.”
When I googled “fear of God,” I found a lovely explanation from Pope Francis:
“The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us… [It] is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace.”
Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause;
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
I find this passage from Psalm 4 especially moving. Thinking of God as the “defender of my cause” is very comforting! Also, the feeling that I get from the second line, imagining being set free of all my troubles, gives me real hope.
This is a Psalm of David. King David writes about all of his troubles in the Psalms. Many, many troubles! He praises God as well, but you really know David is having a bad day when he starts a Psalm with a cry for mercy. He had a lot of reasons to pray for God’s help. He had excruciating pain from arthritis. He was somewhat paranoid about his enemies and hid out in a cave for quite a long time. But his paranoia was not completely unfounded; he constantly wrote about being at war, and even his own son betrayed him. David needed to pray for forgiveness, too. He famously coveted his friend’s wife and sent him off to be killed so he could marry the widow. David often comes to prayer in a desperate state.
In this video about the practice of daily prayer, Reverend Canon Katie Churchwell talks about how we come to prayer. Sometimes we are at our happiest and most fulfilled. Sometimes we are at our “saddest and most pathetic.” (Yes, that’s me.) God will be present either way.
Canon Katie started Pop-Up Prayer on Facebook to give people in St. Petersburg, Florida a place to pray, and a community to pray with. It began during Hurricane Irma when everything was closed, including the church. At the request of the community, she has kept Pop Up Prayer going even after the hurricane.
As more and more people need to self-isolate from the coronavirus, I wonder if online prayer and worship will become even more widespread. Maybe we should pray about it.