“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!” (Psalms 130:1-2, NRSV)
I shared a few weeks ago when I was preaching on Psalm 121 that Psalms 120 through 134 are the Songs of Ascent. The people sang these songs as they traveled from all across Judea to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem for one of the three major religious festivals each year.
With the Temple sitting atop a hill, one must climb Zion’s (Jerusalem’s) hill from the variety of geographic locations from which people came, thus, the Songs of Ascent.
Psalm 130 takes the idea of ascent beyond the usual geographical reference to ascent and clearly expresses a different kind of low place from which one might start. “Out of the depths,” the psalmist begins, and we are immediately made aware he is approaching God from a low and undesirable place. “I cry to you, O Lord,” the psalmist continues, reinforcing the desperation of his current circumstance. Then the psalmist asks God not to be distracted from hearing his cries for help. As the psalm plays out, the psalmist hopes through God’s steadfast love and mercy, that God will redeem not only the psalmist’s plight but the plight of the entire nation of Israel.
As we make our way through Lent, especially under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can identify with the situation of the psalmist. Who would have ever thought our Lenten journey would include a national health emergency that threatens the lives of some of the most vulnerable of our population while also threatening our economy? There is anxiety at so many different levels as we fear for the safety of those we love, as we alter our daily routines to observe new and awkward guidelines around social interaction, and as we face shortages of much-needed food and personal items. During a season of self-reflection in preparation for celebrating our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we are compelled to more realistically measure in Whom (or in what) we trust to save us.
I am finding as I pray that, unlike the psalmist, my fear is not that God is not listening to my pleas for help; instead, my concern is that I’m the one who is distracted and failing to focus on God as the only One in whom I can trust. I devour the news listening for signs of hope. I scan the public health websites looking for progress that signals the end of this pandemic is in sight. I rely on my intellect to calm any fears that may arise as I process all the data I can input into my brain, searching for answers that aren’t there.
I pray, “I can’t wait for this to end;” whereas, the psalmist prayed, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6, NRSV)
With the psalmist, I must wait, and then trust in God’s steadfast love that has the power to redeem:
“O Israel [or, O Dale], hope in the Lord! For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.” (Psalm 130:7, NRSV)
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