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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Today’s Reading | Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
   and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
   enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
   they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
   in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
   scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
   they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
   let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
   you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
   and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near
   and there is no one to help.

Many bulls encircle me,
   strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
   like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
   it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
   and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
   you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs are all around me;
   a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
   O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
   my life from the power of the dog!
   Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
   in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
   All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
   stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
   the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
   but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
   my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
   those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
   May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
   and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
   shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
   and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
   before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
   and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
   saying that he has done it. (NRSV)

Reflection
Can praying to God affect the outcome of events in our lives? If we are faithful and devoted Christians, will we suffer less? If we’re good people, will God intervene in the course of earthly events on our behalf? If we look at our modern social landscape, we find plenty of faith leaders who make exactly these claims.

But is this type of understanding of prayer and faithfulness—and how they might affect God’s relationship with events in our world—consistent with our deepest understandings of our maker and our own human experiences?

Rabbi Harold S. Kushner once wrote, “‘What did I do to deserve this?’ is an understandable outcry from a sick and suffering person, but it is really the wrong question. Being sick or being healthy is not a matter of what God decides that we deserve. The better question is ‘If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?’”

I believe that the question being played out in the psalmist’s lament is the latter. The psalmist is decidedly not asking, “What did I do to deserve this?” The psalmist’s concern is, “What do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?” By the end of our reading, the psalmist even begins to answer this self-directed question and writes, “From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!”

Prayer
God of our joy and of our suffering, help me to have the faith of the psalmist so that, come hardship or happiness, I might not ask, “Why me?” but instead turn trustingly to you as my help in facing whatever I am called to do. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism


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