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God Listens

3B Easter

14 Apr 2024

 




There are times, all too frequently, when I just want to say to heck with it, or something even less polite. There are times when I feel like the world is after me, yes me, and no one is listening. I bet you have felt like that more than once.  Maybe it’s like the kid’s song about eating green worms because no one likes you.  Woe is me, or to be overly self-righteous and a grammar snob, woe is I.

Sometimes I have been aggrieved, the victim of unjustified or unfair treatment.  Sometimes I grieve, feeling sorrow for hurts done to others or for losses to me or those I love.  I have been wounded in my heart because of who I am and because of things said or done to people about whom I care.

I accompanied someone who needed a second trimester abortion.  Walking through the gauntlet of protesters left me feeling frightened and vulnerable and at the same time angry.  I did not understand how they would consider taking the life of a women in the name of saving a fetus. Yet murder was in their eyes. That was one of the most personally unsettling events I have ever experienced.   And that does not even hold a candle to the horrific violence experienced by people who throughout history have fought to be seen as human beings, with all the God given dignity that should be theirs.

So I gravitate to our psalmist today. I am with her; I know exactly what she is feeling.  I hope, as you listened to the psalm, you thought of your own life (the psalms are the most universal and at the same time personal of all the books in the Bible) and the times you felt like the author of this psalm. I could have written this!  Yet if you listened closely, you see how God responds.

You can cry out to God and God will listen, even when you are in the depths of trouble or distress.  Jesus himself would have uttered these words, read this psalm. And the message of this pslam is aso the message that Jesus gave, and is still giving, to us.  It is the Easter theme.  We can speak to God in prayer, we can ask for what we need. God has answered and entered out hearts and given us the space we need. We know that injustice continues and we speak out; we are the prophets of God’s coming reign; we see evil and injustice and call people back to God.

In the King James version we are told in no uncertain terms to “Stand in awe” and not to do wrong.  Jesus said do not fear, but believe and do what is right. Proceed in love and not in anger.

And finally, rejoice!  If not at Eastertide, then when?  For us the coming of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection has brought gladness to our hearts, for we know the goodness and life that comes with faith in God and in Jesus. Bread and wine, grain and wine, are the elements of the Eucharist.  They are a foretaste of heaven, if you will.  We glimpse the reign of God and gladness enters our hearts when we share in the abundance of the communion and the community.

We have put our trust in, or belief in, Jesus.  We can rest in peace, regardless of what comes, because we rest in the love of God and of Jesus.

This is not a psalm of triumph!  You might think that, knowing we have just celebrated the Feast of the resurrection, the psalm would be one of unabashed victory and joy.  So why a psalm with such a range of emotions?

This psalm is the garden, the cross, and the grave.  Without Lent there can be no Easter.  We see the resurrection coming out of the depths of despair, out of the real dirt and debris of our own lives.  Jesus did not appear to his friends as a perfectly intact being; he had the scars and the wound in his side.  Luke points that out to us in today’s Gospel.  When we ignore the suffering and dwell only on the risen Christ, we ignore what God is doing.  (This is why I will never buy the premise of the so called prosperity Gospel; riches come to all of us from the Gospel, but they are not in the form of gold and silver or success.)

The Psalms are the very personal spare no punches part of the Bible.  They let you shake your fist at God as much as they offer praise.  This is something we must remember during Eastertide; we come with joy and we celebrate, yet we must not every separate the human suffering of Jesus and the cross and grave from the glory of Easter.  Easter is hope, not delusions of grandeur.

If you follow the daily office, you read the psalms over the course of weeks. It is good to do so, for it keeps you and I grounded in the messiness of the world in which we live, the world that God loves and that Jesus came to show us a better way in which to live in it.

 

(To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.)

 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

2. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

3. But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

4. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

6. There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

7. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

8. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.


King James Bible

 

1     Answer me when I call, O God of my right!

You gave me room when I was in distress.

Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2     How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?

How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?            Selah 

3     But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;

the Lord hears when I call to him.

4     When you are disturbed, do not sin;

ponder it on your beds, and be silent.   Selah 

5     Offer right sacrifices,

and put your trust in the Lord.

6     There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!

Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”

7     You have put gladness in my heart

more than when their grain and wine abound.

8     I will both lie down and sleep in peace;

for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. [1]

 


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 4:1–8.

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