Sermon for Sunday, July 1, 2018 || Proper 8B || Psalm 130
Psalm 130 holds a special place in my heart. You all know my father comes up fairly often in my sermons because his nearly 30 years of ordained ministry have had such a profound impact on my own. Psalm 130 is his favorite psalm. I’ve often heard him recount with eloquence and tenderness a moment with God out on the ocean when he felt like the watchmen waiting for the morning. Because Psalm 130 is his favorite, it has become one of mine too. So when the psalm came up in our rotation today, it called out to me, and I’d like to share my thoughts on it with you in the form of a meditation.
I invite you to find as comfortable a seat as you can in your hard pew. Uncross any body parts that are crossed: legs, arms, fingers. Clench and unclench your fists a few times and feel the release of tension that comes from holding your hands open. Imagine your heart opening the same way. Take a deep breath and let it out twice as slowly as you took it in. Close your eyes if you wish. And listen now to the wisdom and the longing of the psalmist.
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Out of the depths of the ocean, like Jonah after he was swallowed by the great fish, after he jumped overboard to quell the maelstrom, after he fled to the opposite end of the world to escape God’s call on his life.
Out of the depths of hubris, like Peter who stepped out of the boat and onto the water, who started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the whitecaps, who flung up his hand when the current pulled him down.
Out of the depths of abandonment, like the thief on the cross, who hangs there next to Jesus, who hears Jesus cry out his forsakenness, who cries back, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” which is another way of saying, “We’re in this together.”
Out of the depths of God’s love, for when we call out to God, it’s because God was already calling out to us.
Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
Listen to the words of my prayer that tumble unbidden from my lips, but listen also to the longing of my soul, which could never be translated into human speech. Most words are empty promises or mere flattery, but the longing of the soul cannot be fabricated, and such longing is the only way for us to speak your language, O Lord. You understand our longings; therefore, help us understand them too.
If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?
That is, if you kept a ledger of sins, if you tallied up all the ways we missed the mark, if you listed out all the times we have distorted our relationships with you and with one another, then who would stand a chance? But that’s not your business, our dear and gracious God; instead of poring over our sins, you call us back into right relationship…
For there is forgiveness with you;
Forgiveness does not wipe out transgression. Forgiveness acknowledges the sin, the break, the hurt; indeed, there is no forgetting when truly forgiving. And yet the grace of forgiveness is that it does not allow the pain of the past to dominate the future. True forgiveness comes only from God, because only you, Lord, have the patience to own a future free from sin.
Therefore you shall be feared.
Not the fear of terror, but the fear of awe and reverence and wonder. The fear that makes us tremble, tremble, tremble when we ask, “Where you there when they crucified my Lord?” For when they crucified my Lord, God opened the door to that future only God can see. And so…
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.
Each day our future turns into our past, and each day the coming reign of God is still coming but never fully here. That’s why we hope, for hope is trust projected into the future. We hope in God’s word for God is still speaking this creation into being just as God did in the beginning when God said, “Let there be light.” God’s word is the directing creativity that we can participate in, that we can hope in. This directing creativity we name God’s mission of healing and reconciliation and the restoration of all things back to the purposes for which God spoke them into being.
My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
My soul, my very being, the piece of me that speaks the language of God, waits for a new dawn, a new day, the end of a long, dark night. The night watch can’t make the morning come any faster by their vigilance, but perhaps this is where the metaphor breaks down. Our souls’ vigilance teaches us that God is like the sun: always shining even when we, like the earth, turn away.
O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy;
We move from the personal to the collective with the mention of Israel, a shorthand for the people of God. We wait in hope because our God is a God of steadfast and unfailing love, which is the promise to be with us always, even when we spin into the darkness of night.
With him there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
To redeem is to make good on a promise. When we were children, we all gave our mothers packets of I.O.U.’s for their birthdays. “I owe you one hug.” “I owe you an extra dishwashing chore.” When Mom turned in one of those little slips of paper it was on us to affirm our promise. That’s redemption. And that’s God’s business: not the hoarding of sins, but the washing away of the same.
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord, because you were already calling to me out of my own depths, calling with the language of love, trust, hope, and redemption. Psalm 130 is our prayer of longing, longing to remember God of the past, respond to God in the present, and join God in the future that we are creating together.