Look at the shellfish stuck in the muck. Just look at it. This sermon considers Psalm 130, crying out from the muck and waiting on the Lord. Preached April 2, 2017 at St. Peter’s Comox. Fifth Sunday of Lent.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord Ps. 130:1 Psalm 130 is a psalm of ascent. Not assent as in agreement but ascent as in going upward. It would be sung on mount Zion as pilgrims leaving the activity of the city climbed up to the temple, up to the place of the presence of God. Its powerful that a song sung while physically climbing a hill begins “Out of the depths.”
Its hard to get through life without knowing “the depths” those places where we feel furthest from the presence of God. We know places where all we can feel is sadness at dashed hopes and emptiness. We know places where what we want seems better than anything God could have in store for us. We know places where we are so tired of caring, hoping and loving that we don’t want to feel anything anymore. We know the places where we want to love after his love but just can not seem to. Yes we know the depths. I don’t know about you but I can feel that painful ascent, that desperate intense and small smoldering of the heart. For out of the depths we raise this plea again to the ears of God Almighty.
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. Ps. 130:2 We don’t believe in some deist understanding of a God who created the world and abandoned it. We don’t believe in a God of the gaps who simply set up a system of rules and laws and left it to figure itself out. We believe in God who reveals himself to us with ears that hear. What a radical hope! And from these lips of ours we cry mercy from our desperation to a God who hears us.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? Ps. 130:3 Perhaps part of the depths out of which we’re crying is the space, the distance between ourselves and God. We perceive Him to be far away from us. After all He is holy, and between His ways and our ways there is a great chasm. In some ways there is a reality to the depths. It speaks to our depravity. In this time of lent when many of us are being attentive to what’s getting in the way of our relationship with God this chasm can seem all the deeper. The reality of God’s justice is something that no one can attain on their own.
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. Ps. 130:4 It is not the list of our sins that define us, nor our depravity thanks be to God. For the Lord has revealed himself to be merciful. Resting in that mercy we are free to revere and serve God. Those ascending the temple mount were going to offer sacrifices to pay for their sins. Its important to remember that we are being forgiven that we might fulfill God’s will for us. We see a glimpse of what that desire is. He desires that we serve Him reverently. We are called to be His servants before serving all else in this world, and that service is fulfilled in faithful and obedient love. For that is what reverence is, reverence is to submit in charity, to love our master for that is who He is. Being forgiven by Christ sacrifice we are made free to live this out in every corner of our lives.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. Ps. 130:5 I like to do things. When there is a problem I want to take action immediately and remove the problem so I can go back to not worrying about it. Honestly I hate waiting. I had to wait like fifteen minutes the other day on hold on the phone. You know how they say on the phone “your call is important to us”? I started responding every time “if my call was important to you, you’d hire someone to answer it.” The pslamist invites us into a space of waiting. And yes sometimes waiting on the Lord involves wrestling with the turbulence of our own impatience. It involves submitting to God’s sovereignty. It means giving responsibility to Him and not trying to immediately solve things after your own ingenuity and skill. We are to wait on Him with our whole being. Attentively wait with our minds that may want to race. Attentively wait with our wandering hearts that may long for something to cling to. Our minds are called to slow. Our hearts are called to be laid bare. And all of our hope is to be put into the Word of God waiting to be received therein.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Ps. 130:6 Given the geo-political chaos and the military activity of the days of Ancient Israel I imagine the watchmen waited quite desperately for the morning. Being the first line of defense for the city against marauders and foreign armies a watchmen wants the morning to come. So in one sense waiting on the Lord involves stilling our minds and unhinging our hearts from the worldly things they cling to. In another sense, waiting on the Lord is about training our imagination and our desires. Waiting on the Lord is about longing for the Lord, its about coming into that longing love for that which our hearts were made to love. For in that love is our hope, in that love is our true security from what assails us beyond the city gates.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Ps. 130:7 Yes. In him is a love that does not fail but overcomes the depths that we find ourselves and redeems us to what God has purposed for us. What must these words have meant for Ezekiel a priest without a temple living in exile and turbulence? God literally required him to lay down on 390 days on his left side then 40 days on his right side. He saw the glory of the Lord leave the temple, his people ashamed and forced to live away from the land of promise. To this man waiting on the Lord was given the vision of new life given to old dry bones and the hope of the redemption of the people of God. What did it mean for Mary and Martha who called out for Jesus’s help in their brother’s illness? What did it mean for them as they waited on him witnessing even their brother’s death? What did it mean for them to keep waiting on his redemption?
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins Ps. 130:8 Our God restored Israel to the promised land after Ezekiel’s vision. This redemption rings true. Our God restored Lazarus to life. What might it have meant to the first believers who ascended that hill to offer sacrifices for the redemption from their sins to hear that God Himself would redeem them? We remember this morning the lamb of God who conquering our bondage to death and our depravity releases us from our sins. We remember that Jesus himself enters into the depths that we are not alone in them. Having taken on our nature He ascends into heaven that we might ascend in Him. For we are in Him, and He is in us.
Let us wait upon the Lord in the Eucharistic feast this morning. Let us cry out to the Lord from the depths that we know. Let us put our hope in the Word of God. Let us trust in our redemption. Let us receive freedom to revere and serve God. Let us ascend into the presence of the Living God.