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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 20, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 79:1–9

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
   they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
   to the birds of the air for food,
   the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water
   all around Jerusalem,
   and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
   mocked and derided by those around us.

How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?
   Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations
   that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
   that do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob
   and laid waste his habitation.

Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
   let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
   for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
   for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins,
   for your name’s sake. (NRSV)

It had been a terrible, no good, very bad month for me.

At one business, the president and COO aren’t talking to each other and each wants the other fired; at another company, one of its three deep wells stopped working and we are turning away customers who will never return; at home, my sister and her three children arrived from London needing to “borrow” my credit card for their vacation; and to top it off, I tore my right calf muscle while playing tennis.

Whine, whine, whine. I have it so bad.

And then I read Psalm 79.

Talk about perspective. My whimpers do not compare to the psalmist’s desperate pleas for a world that has crashed and burned. God’s servants were fed “to the birds of the air for food . . . or to the wild animals of the earth.” The people have been “mocked and derided by those around us.” The people have “poured out their blood like water . . . and there was no one to bury them.”

In short, all that the psalmist holds sacred was stripped away. Nothing remains.

The psalmist pleads with God to intervene: “Let your compassion come speedily to meet us.” “Help us, O God of our salvation. . . . Deliver us, and forgive our sins.”

These laments for mercy—unlike my whines—are real. And only God can provide answers.

What do we do when our lives have been torn apart by death, loss, and despair? This psalmist’s response: cry out to God, again and again and again.

God will always hear our toughest questions and our most anguished pleas. I’m sorry that God also hears my selfish whines.

Dear God, thank you for hearing our cries when we pour out our anger, anguish, desperation, and love. Amen.

Written by Phil Calian, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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