Friday, June 19, 2009

Darkness is my only companion

Way back when I was privileged to study with the late Bernhard Anderson, author of a widely read introduction to the Old Testament. When I took a class with him, he'd just published a commentary on the Psalms.

A Methodist, he was surprised but gratified to find out that the Episcopal The Book of Common Prayer includes Psalm 88 in its lectionary of daily readings. Many churches omit that Psalm from public worship, because of its agonized pleas to a God who doesn't answer. Unlike most Psalms, it ends on a note of despair.

It was in the readings this morning. On a Friday, it serves as a reminder of Christ's sacrifice on the cross - the total despair and abandonment he faced so that we can have new and eternal life in God's presence.

Apart from that liturgical use, Psalm 88 shows that God knows and can make holy every point in our life's journey, even the moments that seem most bereft of anything good. Read it, and offer even your hidden agonies to God:

Psalm 88

O LORD, my God, my Savior, *by day and night I cry to you.
Let my prayer enter into your presence; *incline your ear to my lamentation.
For I am full of trouble; *my life is at the brink of the grave.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; *I have become like one who has no strength;
Lost among the dead, *like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no more, *for they are cut off from your hand.
You have laid me in the depths of the Pit, *in dark places, and in the abyss.
Your anger weighs upon me heavily, *and all your great waves overwhelm me.
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.
LORD, why have you rejected me? *why have you hidden your face from me?
Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the point of death; *I have borne your terrors with a troubled mind.
Your blazing anger has swept over me; *your terrors have destroyed me;
They surround me all day long like a flood; *they encompass me on every side.
My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, *and darkness is my only companion.

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