There is a lovely double arc of movement in this interpretation of Psalm 40. As we join our voices to those of ancient worshippers we describe our own journey from the depths of despair, from that “miry pit”, upwards to the safety of solid ground.
As someone who loves walking I can think of times when we have waded through mud that seemed to treble the size of our boots and cling with dripping weightiness whilst we struggled through seeking the solid ground and hard rock.
The Psalmist has us sing of the truth of this momentum of salvation; from depth to height, from despair to hope, from lostness to being found. Here is an arc we travel again and again. Here is history’s arc of movement as disaster and despair give way to rejoicing.
2020 becoming 2021 has given us a global longing for salvation more starkly than any most of us have known outside war. Of course, for many the salvation comes from the skills of science and the liberating injection of vaccine. But, in the mix for us, and heading the list, comes our knowledge that God is at work in saving and renewing.
Which brings me to that other arc the Psalmist lets us sing. Our predicament moves God. God, far from hiding safely aloof in the infinite mystery of the cosmos, “bent down to where I sank and listened to me there.” Isn’t that just the most glorious phrase? Doesn’t that capture so much of our theology in but a few words? I love it!
Reading it through the lens of Christmas and Easter it speaks of Incarnation; of God’s willingness to limit God’s very self by taking on the robe and risk of human flesh. Here is God revealed as rescuer supreme; coming close enough to kneel in the dust where life has left us crushed. Here is God, reaching out a hand to take our own and lift us up even if the disaster we are facing is one we have helped to create for ourselves. Is it any wonder, then, that we cannot help but sing and bow in gratitude? Today, where might we discover God crouching with us? When will we be prompted to sing of God’s wonders revealed?
You listen! What a wonder it is to me, that my troubles and triumphs might be whispered or shouted and heard. With you, dear God, we never are alone, bereft, cut adrift, forsaken. Sometimes we think we are. Then, especially then, help us discover you in the mud where we are stuck. As Jesus promised. Amen.
The Reverend Neil Thorogood, Minister, Thornbury URC & Trinity-Henleaze URC (Bristol)