Friday, April 06, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross - Day THIRTY-NINE - GOOD FRIDAY

Psalm 22, Today's New International Version

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from the words of my groaning? 
 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
   by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
   you are the praise of Israel.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
   they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
   in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, not a human being;
   I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 
 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
   “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me feel secure on my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near
   and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
   strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
   open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
   it has melted within me.
My mouth  is dried up like a potsherd,
   and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
   you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
   a pack of villains encircles me;
   they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
   people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
   and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
   You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword,
   my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
   save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people;
   in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
   All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him,
   all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
   before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied;
   those who seek the LORD will praise him—
   may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
   will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
   will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
   and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
   all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
   those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it! 


Sometimes there is a rare and ineffable beauty in desolation, a kind of purity that makes the breath catch, the heart skip. 

This song is like that for me. Laced with equal parts despair and hope, Psalm 22 shakes me to the core. 

It acknowledges all the devastating feelings of abandonment, isolation, and stark terror that rise to the surface when life is seriously threatened. 

And yet it circles around again and again to hope, to praise, to remembrance of rescue, to faithfulness over time, to God. 

The opening line pours out of Jesus as he hangs on the cross. Suspended against that darkening sky, enduring the jeers and angry retorts of bystanders, his breathing more and more laborious, Jesus speaks the holy words of his people, the cry of his ancestor David. 

Jesus cried out these words in his mother tongue, the weight of it all echoing through the centuries. Eloi, Eloi...WHY? 

There is no answer for Jesus. And there is not always an answer for us, either. 

Yet, there is beauty in these words. There is breathtaking beauty. 

As he died that day, he drew to himself all the brokenness, all the sinfulness wrought by our willfulness.

He knew, he KNOWS, that the only remedy is this outpouring of love, bright red love, in, around, through and over it all. 

And to show us that love, to offer us that love - 
     he had to feel what we feel, 
          to endure what we endure, 
               to suffer through what we must all suffer through:  

that stunning sense of being alone in the universe.

And his desolation is a thing of beauty - of raw, terrible, agonizing beauty. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:16-17


Beautiful Savior, thank you for pouring out our God's divine love on the world through your very human body and blood. Thank you for sharing our pain, for subsuming our pain, for redeeming our pain. And thank you that you did all of that by enduring our pain. Completely. Your name be praised. Amen.