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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, June 20, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 43     

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
   against an ungodly people;
from those who are deceitful and unjust
   deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
   why have you cast me off?
Why must I walk about mournfully
   because of the oppression of the enemy?

O send out your light and your truth;
   let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
   and to your dwelling.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
   to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise you with the harp,
   O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my help and my God.(NRSV)

A number of times over the years, individuals have asked me where they should start reading the Bible. My recurring response is to begin with the psalms. Why? The psalms are brief and often personal. It is quite easy to identify with the psalmist.

What’s more, the psalms refuse to be polite and distant in their conversation with God. They are poems of deep feelings, as exemplified by Psalm 43: “Why have you cast me off (O God)?” The psalms can be very demanding too: “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause.”

I enjoy that we both read and sing the psalms in weekly worship at Fourth Presbyterian Church. The psalms were sung by our Jewish forebears in the temple in Jerusalem. Later they became the church’s original hymnal. Psalm 43, in fact, was adapted in Hymn 778 in our current hymnal, “As Pants the Deer for Living Streams.”

Scholar N.T. Wright has written that “we should let the psalms speak for [us], naming [our] struggles and our joys to our God.” Whether we sing or speak these expressive texts, we are invited by Wright to “pray these poems, and they will sustain [us] on the long, hard, but exhilarating road of Christian discipleship”(N. T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential).

Psalm 43 provides a few phrases for me that function as a mantra as I sit with people facing some of the deepest challenges life provides. And they give me words for personal prayer in our painfully hurting world. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God.”

O Holy One, I am grateful that I can address you in hurt, in frustration, in anger, as well as in joyful praise. Thank you for the psalmists, who give me words when I am speechless. May I, may we, continue the conversation with you, Divine Listener. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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