Now that we are almost halfway through our Summer of Psalms series at St. James, I am humbled by the extent to which this experience is proving to be socially relevant and spiritually invigorating.
Well before white nationalists or counterprotesters assembled in Charlottesville on Saturday, we, at St. James, had planned to explore psalms of lament in Sunday’s worship service.
By the time that a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters on Sunday afternoon, Sunday’s sermon was already written, and I watched with horror as reports and reaction began to fill my news feeds.
I briefly considered re-writing yesterday’s sermon so that it would speak directly to the tragic events of the weekend but ultimately decided against, because, upon further review, I believed that the sermon, in its focus on human suffering, already applied.
I stand amazed by the fact that, when we focus on God’s grace in Jesus Christ, which bubbles just beneath the surface of every page of Scripture, we find comfort, clarity and strength of purpose in God’s holy Word. God’s grace patiently waits for us on the other side of the unknown, on the other side of our fear.
Among the premises of the Summer of Psalms series are: 1) that psalms serve as models of prayer and 2) that different genres of psalms emerge from the different sets of circumstances in which psalmists find themselves.
Each and every one of us is historically situated as are our faith, life and life together.
Rather than rewrite the sermon, I wrote a prayer that came to me when I woke up on Sunday morning, a prayer that appropriates Psalm 22, which was yesterday’s second reading, Psalm 30, which served as yesterday’s call to worship, and Psalm 23, with which we are all familiar.
May this psalm, this prayer, be a source of comfort, clarity and strength of purpose as we open our hearts and minds to God’s presence among us:
Our God, our God, why do we forsake each other?
Why are we so distant from Christ’s commandment that we love one another?
O our God, we cry by day, and patiently wait for your answer.
Until then, we face sleepless nights.
Remembering Charlottesville, we lament this nation’s history of racism.
Out of the depths, we cry to you, O Lord.
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?
We give thanks that there is forgiveness, hope and healing in you.
We give thanks that, as Heather Heyer walked through the valley of the shadow of death,
you were there preparing a table for enemies.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives,
and we shall dwell in your house, as one people, our whole lives long.