Tag Archives: Psalm 88

By your endurance you will gain your souls | The martyrs of Charleston

My sight has failed me because of trouble; *
LORD, I have called upon you daily; I have stretched out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead? *
will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?
Will your loving-kindness be declared in the grave? *
your faithfulness in the land of destruction?
Will your wonders be known in the dark? *
or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten?
But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help; *
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Psalm 88:10-14)

The Rev. Dr. Eric H.F. Law of the Kaleidoscope Institute, in his book The Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb, describes the “Cycle of Gospel Living.”

This cycle is also used in the Education for Ministry program in which mentors and our students reflect on “Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World.”

The psalmist and the martyrs of Charleston — along with the African-American community more generally — have entered the cycle of Gospel living from the point of powerlessness.

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me for ever?
how long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

Their endurance has united them with the suffering of Jesus on the cross, whose suffering is not the end of the story. The cross leads to the empty tomb, to resurrection, and to the power of life in Christ.

After an event like the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, social media is justifiably full of anger directed toward well-meaning (mostly white) Christians who “have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14).

In his 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his disappointment with the “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice”:

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

The problem now (as then) is that we are all speaking about the Gospel, but we are talking past each other.

What we “well-meaning Christians” must understand is that we enter the cycle of Gospel living from a completely different position than many (most?) Christians do.

We participate in the cycle when we give up our power, “just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

We participate by falling and failing, by giving up our power and privilege, which no one is taking away from us.

Richard Rohr writes in his daily reflection that:

This is why Christianity has as its central symbol of transformation a naked, bleeding man who is the picture of failing, losing, and dying … and who is really winning — and revealing the secret pattern to those who will join him there.

All of us who are Christians participate in the cycle of Gospel living. All of us center our lives on the crucified and risen Jesus.

But we experience the cycle of Gospel living differently from each other, we come to the saving knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection from different directions, and we must be tender with one another for Jesus’ sake.

A Collect for Fridays

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

A Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

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Friday the 13th

It’s definitely a modern invention, the claim that Friday the 13th is inauspicious because Jacques de Molay and the Knights Templar were arrested in France on Friday, October 13, 1307.

Even so, I’ll play on the connection with that story and today’s readings from Morning Prayer.

I can’t help thinking today of Christians and others imprisoned for their faith, persecuted because of their religion, or driven from their homes to live as refugees, as so many are today.

I can’t help praying for the teenage boys a friend just texted me about, the older killed in a car accident this morning, the younger in critical condition in the hospital. Their suffering and their parents’ grief and fear are dark prisons.

You have put my friends far from me; you have made me to be abhorred by them; *
I am in prison and cannot get free.
My sight has failed me because of trouble; *
LORD, I have called upon you daily; I have stretched out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead? *
will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?
Will your loving-kindness be declared in the grave? *
your faithfulness in the land of destruction?
Will your wonders be known in the dark? *
or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten?
But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help; *
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Psalm 88:9-14)

Pray for all whose faith is abused for financial gain; whose loyalty is rewarded with political murder; whose life is thrown away by those seeking power or control.

Pray for those whose faith is tested by tragedy, pain, and fear.

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11)

But remember, too, that even in the middle of persecution, flight, and abuse; even in the face of tragedy and pain; even on this particular Friday in the middle of Lent, Scripture reminds us that death is not the end of the story.

We are nearing Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ willing sacrifice, his dying and rising, the way of the cross that is the pattern for our own lives of faith.

We are nearing Good Friday, the Friday that makes all others “good,” even the ones that land on the 13th of the month.

And we hear echoes this morning in Paul’s letter to the Romans of the canticle Christ our Passover (BCP 83) that we will sing throughout the coming season of Easter.

A Collect for Fridays

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

Piercing darts of love

rothko blue-and-gray

But as for me, O Lord, I cry to you for help;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Lord, why have you rejected me?
why have you hidden your face from me? (Psalm 88:14-15)

In our English spiritual tradition one of the landmarks is a book from the late 1300s called The Cloud of Unknowing.

The anonymous author, most likely a country parson from the East Midlands, is counseling a younger monk with practical, pastoral advice about mystical prayer, especially dealing with the difficulty that arises when it seems that God has withdrawn — what John of the Cross some 300 years later called “the dark night of the soul.”

The author suggests that we should imagine, as it were, a “cloud of unknowing” hiding God from our senses. Our prayers should be as “piercing darts of love” aimed toward God through the cloud.

The hope of this pastoral approach to prayer is that eventually we will come to love God as he is, not for the consolations he provides. God’s seeming withdrawal, and our time spent under the cloud, can help us to mature in our love for God.

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Our Old Testament reading this morning is a poignant story of another wise priest, Eli, counseling the young man Samuel. Though “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (1 Sam. 3:1), Eli helped Samuel to recognize that God had something to say to him. When Samuel heard the judgment of God against Eli’s sons, he “lay there until morning,” as if under a cloud.

Eli insists that Samuel tell him everything; he knows God is judging him and his sons, but he says “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him” (1 Sam. 3:18). Though Eli will receive no consolation, he continues to love the Lord.

And Samuel? I can’t help but see the “piercing darts of love” foreshadowed when the story tells us that “as Samuel grew up, the Lord let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Sam. 3:19).