Read: Psalm 32
Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
This psalm celebrates the joy of forgiveness and provides instruction as to how we should “acknowledge our sins” and “confess our transgressions to the Lord.”
Oh, how difficult it is to acknowledge our sins! We squirm; we hide; we pretend they never happened. Our stubbornness and pride take over and we bury our sins deep within where, as the psalmist tells us, our bodies dry up and there is no strength within us.
If only we acknowledge our sins and confess them, we will be forgiven. It’s that simple – and that hard. If we trust in God’s word, we will be surrounded by God’s steadfast love and can shout for joy.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen. (BCP, p. 360)
Read: Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
My Dad taught me (from an early age) to “step on your eye.” I presume that was something he was taught, either as a child or as an enlisted man in basic training. I never asked him where he got the saying, and he never told me. Either way, his point was simple: “Watch where you’re going.”
The psalmist has enemies. When Israel was looking to enter the promised land, they sent in spies who returned with news: The people there are humongous giants. We are like grasshoppers in comparison. Rather than turning their eyes upon the One who led them out of slavery into Egypt, the people listened to the spies and decided they couldn’t tackle the task ahead. It was too big. The task was too great. They didn’t look up, nor did they look down. Instead, they looked back and remembered the meals they enjoyed in Egypt, but not the lashes they endured. They remembered the onions they ate, but not the tears they shed.
I think God calls us to look up, but we should also keep an eye out for where we go, for there are many roots to trip us up, holes into which to fall, and curves that could send us careening out of bounds. Ultimately, it is God to whom we look up, and who provides light for the paths we trod or tread. Either way, I plan to step on my eye as God leads me away from where it hurts.
God, grant me grace to lift up my face and dare to see in You all your wonderful glory. Remove from me the stains of my sins; bleach out those stains with the powerful light of your presence, and help me know when I look upon you, I do not see One hastening to scold, but One who desires my hand to hold. Amen.
-The Rev. Keith Axberg
Read: Psalm 31:9-16
For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed. … I am as useless as a broken pot.
-Psalm 31:10, 12b
Palm Sunday is a cacophony of extremes, starting with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem before adoring crowds; descending all too quickly into the horrors of arrest, trial, bloodthirsty mobs, and agonizing crucifixion in a full public display; and from this pit of despair emerging triumphant over the final enemy, death. And the world is changed forever.
But that pendulum swing from one state to another is our experience, too. Life, no matter how well lived, does not promise anyone an easy time of it. Many of us do our best to put the down times out of our minds, and many of us will not advertise our failures, pains, and losses. We often deal with our griefs primarily in our own minds and hearts. Sometimes we have no choice. Jesus was deserted by his best-loved friends and suffered alone. Alone.
So, what is it with this psalmist, who goes public with his fraught life and fears of his enemies? He energetically lays out samples of what stinks (“they plot to take my life”) and takes a good long time to get around to seeking God’s help. But he does, at last, get there.
If we have similar low times, perhaps it’s good to remember that we can turn to God. We don’t have to be alone.
O LORD, my times are in your hand… make your face to shine upon your servant, and your loving-kindness to save me. Amen.
Read: Psalm 57
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
This psalm is believed to have been written by David during one of the two times when he was hiding from King Saul in a cave. David was a servant of King Saul and his job was to make music when Saul was sad. Saul was jealous of David’s popularity with the people and sought to destroy him. So “Bible students think that David also wrote this psalm so that the people could sing it to music that they called “Do not destroy”. Psalm 57 is called a miktam. This means it had a hidden meaning or had special teaching in it.” (Free Bible Commentary) Think of David hiding in a cave singing and praising God for his steadfast love and faithfulness!
God counts on us, His people, to reach out to those around us who are suffering or in need so that they experience God’s faithfulness in their hour of need. I am thinking of a friend of mine who was suffering from COVID-19 and who was in desperate straits, trying to survive the virus all alone in her apartment. I reached out to the prayer chain in our church and to different members of our congregation asking them to hold Sue in their prayers. A month later, Sue is doing so much better and is so grateful for the prayers and good thoughts sent her way. God is faithful!!!!
Our Soroptimist club in La Conner has budgeted money for a Christmas Program which gives out gift cards and checks to the families of children in our local schools who are facing financial difficulties. The number of children who experience food insecurity and/or homeless has almost doubled from last year. Our club felt privileged to also deliver the gifts for these families that were purchased by different members of the community through the Washington Federal Christmas Tree family adoption program. Due to COVID-19, we were not able to give and receive the hugs we normally do but we did see the joy and anticipation on the children’s faces and the gratitude and relief on the parents’ faces that there would be gifts under the tree this year.
Lord, help us to be sensitive to your prompting to show Your faithfulness and love by reaching out to those in need. Amen.
Read: Psalm 70
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!
Author Anne Lamott wrote a book eight years ago entitled Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, and I think this psalm would definitely be included in the “Help” section. Pleas for haste and deliverance appear twice in this psalm, which is a big theme when the psalm is only 5 verses.
Why is it important that pleas for help appear consistently in this psalm? Why is it important that we ask God for help when we are in trouble? Does prayer make a difference?
My answer to the last question is “YES!” Prayer does make a difference when we unite our will to that of God. God wants to help us and deliver us and seems to want us to ask. Does this mean that we will always be delivered from trouble? The answer to that question is “not exactly.” When our trouble is caused by our own bad decisions, we do have to face the consequences. God is present with us, however, as we face them.
In everything we face, be present with us, Lord. Amen.
Read: Psalm 139
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
Full disclosure: This is my favorite psalm. I was really surprised to find this on a list of psalms of lament because most of it seems like a psalm in which the psalmist is in awe of the presence of God. They are pondering how they could go to the ends of the earth, and yet God is there. They are marveling at how they were put together in their mother’s womb, which I find incredibly profound. I mean, this is the psalm I go to when I need to be reminded of God’s presence with me.
The problematic part comes in verse 19 when the psalmist takes a violent turn and talks about wishing the Lord would kill the wicked. Umm… OK… They then talk about hating those who hate the Lord (v. 21), and I find myself wanting to back away slowly while looking for all the possible exits out of this psalm. The psalmist talks about hating them (the wicked and people who hate God) with a perfect hatred (v.22), and I find myself pondering how exactly we went from a psalm expressing wonder and awe to hating people. The psalmist then returns to wanting God to search them and know their thoughts (v.23), and I start wondering what just happened here.
The issue, I think, is that the psalmist’s zeal for the Lord gets a bit out of hand in those four verses from 19-22, and they want to be part of the judgment on the wicked because they have perhaps been persecuted. Zeal is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be tempered and focused in a specific way lest it get out of hand and bad things happen. Those four verses are problematic for me, but I can see (mostly) how they could fit into the psalm. I hold them in tension with the wonder and awe expressed in the majority of the psalm, and I return to feeling like the psalm encircles me like a mantle of strength.
Thank you, Lord, for your presence in the world and the ability to wonder and ponder things. Amen.