Seeker: “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away. I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many– terror all around!– as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” (Psalm 31:9 – 13)
Preacher: The psalmist, when he is living in fear, rends and breaks the heart. But he is not without hope – never without hope.
Seeker: “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 14 – 16)
Preacher: If we understand the psalmist to be a “man after God’s heart”, then surely Jesus was God’s heart. And the Jesus we see and hear during Lent voiced the same sort of fears but also the same confidence in the Divine.
Seeker: The psalmist was not always living in fear, Preacher. We know this from other psalms; psalms that rejoiced and celebrated the current conditions. And praised the Divine for what was happening in the lives of the Divine’s called and chosen people.
Preacher: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-2)
Seeker: We read these words from the scripture passages that are used for Palm Sunday. The address the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Preacher: Remember though, Seeker, Jesus coming into Jerusalem also meant the coming of sorrow for the disciples. But you are correct; right now there is just the rejoicing.
Seeker: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” Verses 19 – 21)
Preacher: I have to wonder what event or swelling of emotion cause the psalmist to write these words.
Seeker: You do not believe, Preacher, that the psalmist was caught up in a vision of the Messiah coming to David’s “small town” of Jerusalem? But, I do know what you mean. Whether it was a vision from/of the future, or an event that has great impact on the psalmist – it would be interesting to know what was going on his life. The psalmist, if he was King David, had a life that ranged from glorious victory to agonizing defeat and lose. If not King David as the psalmist here, then whoever wrote it must have had a color life himself.
Preacher: Or was privy to a glorious and undulating life. A theologian too, who foresaw that what might be devalued in the eyes of some had greater potential than imagined.
Seeker: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Verses 22 – 24)
Preacher: Interesting that the psalmist of this passage saw in the mighty works of the Divine there was room and opportunity for the Lord’s people to ask and receive relief. “Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!” (Verse 25)
Seeker: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.” (Verses 26 – 28) There is a mixing and mingling of who is coming and who is doing the saving. The psalmist’s vision, if that is what originally inspired these words, sees both the Source of the rescue and the celebration of the rescue and the coming of relief. How, Preacher, can we be sure the original inspiration for this coming and celebration was Divinity and not “just” some also inspired but not of divine composition.
Preacher: The truth, Seeker, is that we cannot. The rescue that Jesus represented has become so intermingled with other forms of rescue and relief that ALL are now ascribed to the Divine. In some ways it is good. All good things come from the Divine. But on the other hand, if we are always waiting for rescue to come from a source/Divine Source outside of us, we never will act or step out in faith, or commit ourselves to be a conduit for the Divine to work through.
Seeker: I understand your point and your reasoning completely. But take solace, Preacher, that the psalmist did not keep this vision to himself, but put it down in words. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the disciples started the “party” and celebration, the people joined in. Jesus first called the disciples to action, and after that – and up to our modern day – the Spirit of the Divine calls us out to. Yes, there are those who sit and wait, never testing their faith nor the Support of the Divine. But there are many – praise to the Lord God – many who stand up and act; remain firm in their faith unto death. When the Divine calls, there will be those who answer.
Preacher: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Verse 29)