By bringing everything we are, everything we experience to God, in prayer, in conversation, it shows that as the people of God we recognize that our faith was never meant to be God out there somewhere and us here on Earth disconnected.
May 16, 2021
How Long: Renouncing Evil
Pastor Heather McColl
Psalm 13 (Common English version)
How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I be left to my own wits, agony filling my heart? Daily? How long will my enemy keep defeating me? Look at me! Answer me, Lord my God! Restore sight to my eyes! Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I won!” My foes will rejoice over my downfall. But I have trusted in your faithful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. Yes, I will sing to the Lord because he has been good to me.
I have shared before that my favorite book in the Bible is the book of Psalms. I love how the Psalms show us as people of faith that we can bring everything, our joys, our sorrows, our hurt, our angers, our frustrations, everything in prayer to God and God is not going to get upset. Rather, what the Psalms teach us is that by doing this, by bringing all of who we are, all of what we are experiencing to God, we grow more deeply in our relationship with God, that we begin to understand what it means to be in community with one another. By bringing everything we are, everything we experience to God, in prayer, in conversation, it shows that as the people of God we recognize that our faith was never meant to be God out there somewhere and us here on Earth disconnected.
Rather our faith always was, always has been and is always about sharing all our humanness with God. And in doing so, we show others, we show ourselves that we trust that God is there with us, no matter what. Bringing everything to God, all our joys, all our frustrations, all our sorrows, all our anger, all our disappointments, all our celebration, bringing everything to God is a bold act of faith. It shows the world that we know that God’s shoulders are big enough to handle whatever we may be feeling. That even if we are angry at God for seeming to turn God’s face away from us, we know that we can bring that feeling, that experience, that hurt to God as well, and God will listen, which is exactly what the psalmist does in Psalm 13. [Renouncing Evil Psalm 13]
Psalm 13 is a lament. It is a song of grief. It is a song of frustration. It is a song offered by someone who is overwhelmed. It is a song which demands that God be the God we expect God to be, that is a God who is steadfast, a God who is faithful from generation to generation, a God who surrounds us with love and grace. Psalm 13 is a song offered in worship, offered in prayer to remind God, to remind us of our relationship with God. It calls out to God in God’s seemingly noticeable absence. It demands that God be the God we have experienced God to be as people of faith. Psalm 13 recognizes that all the hate, all the hurt, all the brokenness is not what God intended for us as Beloved Children of God. With every naming of the hurt which fills our world, Psalm 13 simply wonders “how long will all the bad stuff happen?”
What I love about Psalm 13 is that we don’t know exactly to what the psalmist is referring to when he names all the bad stuff. Unlike other psalms of lament, we are not told. Rather with its repetitive phrase of “How Long”, Psalm 13 invites us to fill in the blank. Reading this psalm line by line, it is almost as if the psalmist knew that we each take unique journeys through life with very different ups and downs. But at the same time, through the very same lines, the psalmist also realizes that at the basic level we all need to know that God is there, that God will be the God we have experienced in the past, that we can trust God to act once again to redeem God’s people. With its repetitive phrase of “how long”, Psalm 13 becomes a lament for all occasions.
Which makes it perfect for us as people of faith as we continue to emerge from this weird, traumatic, frustrating, post-Covid time. We hear the echoes of Psalm 13 in our conversations. We hear the echoes of Psalm 13 in the prayers we lift to God. We hear the echoes of Psalm 13 in everything we do and say….How long, O God? How long will we see fighting in the Middle East? How long will children be abandoned at the border? How long will many seniors have to choose between medicine or food? How long will our youth experience pressure to reach the impossible standards of perfection placed on them by social media and advertising? How long, O God? How long will our world continue to not reflect your Kingdom here on Earth as it is in heaven? How long, O God, will all this bad stuff continue to happen?
In the same way it did for the people of God some two thousand years ago, Psalm 13 names for us the harsh reality that we live in a world which does not reflect what God envisioned when God created the world and called it good. In its frustration, in its grief, Psalm 13 recognizes that our world is broken, that our world is filled with hate, filled with hurt, filled with oppressive systems which have clogged the streams of God’s justice, preventing the waters from rolling down. Psalm 13 names the fact that hope is a rare commodity in our world right now.
Yet at the same time, it does not leave us in a place of despair. Because in verse 5, it shifts its tone. Again we are not given the specific circumstances of why this is. We are not told if all the psalmist’s problems are solved. We simply are told that the psalmist trusted, that the psalmist trusts in God’s faithful love.
With this simple phrase, the psalmist names a fundamental truth to our faith. It names a trust, it names an understanding that God is good all the time. And if we are not at a place of full healing and wholeness for all of God’s children, then the story isn’t finished yet.
Our faith story teaches us, our experiences of God, our experiences with God teach us that God is still at work in this world, bringing about love, bringing about grace, bringing about God’s justice for all of God’s people. Our faith story, our experiences of God, our experiences with God show us that we are both and people, that we live in a world which is filled with hurt and hope and yet we know that we have the promise that the Kingdom of God will come to fruition here on Earth just as it is in Heaven.
We can offer up a prayer which is both one of lament and one of hope as well because as people of faith, we know that our God will not stand by and allow the hurt and the hate to be the end of the story. Our God has promised us that soon, very soon, God’s Kingdom will come here on Earth just like it is in Heaven. We know this because we are in relationship with God and God has shown us time and time again that God will always have the last word.
So for those of us gathered for this worship series, for those of us watching for those of us who will hear these words at some point later in the week, it is my prayer that we accept the invitation Psalm 13 is extending to us, an invitation to center ourselves in the presence of God even when it appears God is absent. Psalm 13 is inviting us to offer up a prayer of hurt and hope. To cleanse our hearts, to cleanse our souls by bringing everything we feel in this traumatic, frustrating, weird time we find ourselves in right now and every other time we might feel the same way in the future. For those gathered for worship, for those gathered to be in conversation with God, Psalm 13 invites us to use its lines as a breath prayer, to use each verse to breathe out the fear, to breathe out the worry, to breathe out the injustices which fill our world while breathing in the love of God, breathing in the hope of God. Each time we hear the phrase, each time we say the phrase “How Long?”, Psalm 13 invites us to be secure in the knowledge that God will respond, that God does responds with a promise, a promise to see beyond the grave, to see beyond the bad stuff and know…know that the vision of God’s Shalom is coming to fruition here on Earth for all of God’s people. Thanks be to God.