By Derek Weber
Week 5 – Psalm 130 (NRSV)
March 29, 2020
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
Week 5: Out of the Depths
Even though Palm Sunday is part of Lent, we’ve chosen to deal with it separately, as a part of the Holy Week/Easter commemoration and celebration. Therefore, this week is the last week in our Selah series. (It is possible, of course, to extend the theme to cover Palm Sunday, using either Psalm 118 if focusing on the Palm event or Psalm 31 if centering on the Passion story.) Psalm 130, however, provides a proper ending to the series and an anticipation of what is to come. The psalm is a cry from the depths of pain or despair. And there is no clear resolution, no clear fix to the brokenness; the separation still abides. And yet, there is hope. There is the confidence, even from a position of pain, that resolution is at hand. There is a trust that even in suffering, there is someone who knows us. Even if nobody knows the trouble we see, there is always a “but” in our faith; nobody knows, but Jesus.
Suggested Spiritual: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”
First, a liturgical note: Sometimes we engage in responsive bidding prayers during worship. The petitioner will share a prayer concern, situation, or person, asking for the community to pray for the concern. The response is often “Lord, in your mercy.” And the body responds, “Hear our prayer.” Note that the proper response is not “hear our prayers” but “hear our prayer.” This is about joining prayers together to become one. The body prays together. “Hear our (corporate, joined) prayer.”
It’s a minor point, admittedly, but not without meaning or value. It is significant because it reminds us that we are in this together. Though each of us may have arrived at the time of worship with our own personal concerns and fears and hurts and joys, the time of worship is about binding together. Worship is a unifying moment in our divided lives. “Hear our prayer” is one way of signaling that unity and giving us a sense that we are in this together.
This is the same journey that the writer of Psalm 130 makes in our text this week. He makes a journey from intense personal pain to corporate hope. “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.” The “I” is especially poignant here. The human experience is that when we are down, we are alone. The suffering of the moment is compounded by the loneliness of our souls. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”. Nobody understands what I’m going through. Nobody has been where I am right now. Never mind that logically, if I gave myself space to reflect objectively, I would have to admit that others have suffered and that much of what others experience is more extreme, more intense than mine. But my pain is my pain. It becomes my world, which is why people often react strongly when we say things like, “I know how you feel.” We are certain that nobody knows how we feel.
“Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.” Yet, there is hope even here. This is a lament. I cry out to you. Lament, one commentator explains, is different from complaint. In complaint, I cry out about God. In lament, I cry out to God (Stephen Farris, “Homiletical Perspective on Psalm 130,” Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 2, p.131). That difference is significant, especially when it is accompanied by that faith that says God is about healing and forgiveness. The psalmist models for us crying out to God in faith, trusting that a hearing God brings reconciliation – even though we sometimes, usually, must wait.
My soul waits, writes our psalmist, from the depths of whatever brokenness is known. My soul waits because of what I know about God, because of what the Word says about God. I wait with eagerness. I wait with discipline as though it were my duty or my vocation to wait on the Lord. I do better than those who watch the gates of the city. I am more diligent than those who stand guard over our safety and security. I am more persistent, more willing, to wait. I wait for God because faith tells me that God hears and that God cares. I know this because of what Jesus revealed about the nature of God.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Nobody knows my sorrow / Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Glory hallelujah.
Where does the hallelujah come from? From the faith that says even though my lived experience is that nobody knows, my faith experience is that Someone knows. God knows. Jesus knows. Some versions of the spiritual say Nobody knows but Jesus, as a way of articulating more clearly that faith. But it is evident in the glory, evident in the hallelujah. Because of that confidence, I can wait. I can watch.
It is this willingness to wait that brings the psalmist out of the depths into the community of faith. Watch with me is the call, the invitation. Watch for the redemption of the Lord. Watch for the hearing of God. O Lord, hear our prayer. What are we asking for when we ask the Lord to hear our prayer? The psalmist doesn’t ask for anything but God’s hearing. We don’t ask anything but, “Lord, hear our prayer.” Is it that hearing is healing, hearing is redeeming? Hearing is resolving? Well, yes, sometimes it is. We all have certain outcomes that we desire for our prayers: healing for loved ones, lives turned around, conflict resolved, jobs found and bondage shattered, fires put out, and devastation-wracked communities rebuilt; our outcomes are as varied as the situations for which we pray. But in it all, we pray for hearing. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / nobody knows my sorrow / nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Glory hallelujah. We want to get to the hallelujah. We want to know the glory, to know that God is hearing and that God is with us.
John Wesley supposedly said on his deathbed, “Best of all, God is with us.” It is presence, not power. that we seek most of all. It is someone who hears, someone who knows who makes all the difference in the world. As we end our season of Selah and prepare ourselves for the Passion, for the death and Resurrection of our Lord, we are all like the man on the cross beside Jesus who simply said, “Remember me.” Glory hallelujah.