Out of the depths I cry to you; O Lord God, hear me calling. Incline your ear to my distress in spite of my rebelling. Do not regard my sinful deeds. Send me the grace my spirit needs; without it I am nothing.
2 All things you send are full of grace; you crown our lives with favour. All our good works are done in vain without our Lord and Saviour. We praise you for the gift of faith; you save us from the grip of death; our lives are in your keeping.
3 In you alone, O God, we hope, and not in our own merit. We rest our fears in your good word; uphold our fainting spirit. Your promised mercy is my fort, my comfort, and my strong support; I wait for it with patience.
4 My soul is waiting for you, Lord, as one who longs for morning; no watcher waits with greater hope than I for your returning. I hope as Israel in the Lord, who sends redemption through the Word. Praise God for grace and mercy!
In 1530, during his examination by Cardinal Cajetan at the Imperial Diet of Augsburg, Luther’s heart was often troubled, but he would say, ‘Come, let us defy the devil and praise God by singing a hymn.’ Then he would begin, ‘Out of the depths I cry to Thee.’ Luther particularly loved this Psalm seeing within it echoes of St Paul’s theology that we are saved by our faith not by the good things we do. Sadly the unusual metre of the hymn makes it a rather tricky one to sing.
The Reformation controversies about what we must do to be saved from the fires of Hell don’t tax the minds of many contemporary Christians. We often don’t believe in Hell and the disagreement about faith and works has been settled, officially, between Catholics and Lutherans – and the differences weren’t as great with Catholics always agreeing salvation was by faith – but holding that our cooperation with God (a ‘work’) was necessary too.
Yet, as there are never any new heresies, contemporary society still agonises over doing the right things to obtain post modern salvation. What we eat, what we wear, going to the gym, conforming to social norms about how we look all seem to have the importance in contemporary life that the debates about faith and works had in the 16th Century. Salvation might not be seen as from the miry pits of eternal flame but from social alienation. To be different is dangerous and in our constant desire for diversity we often end up being quite similar. Youngsters who do defy the social conventions of their age are often bullied or cast as outsiders.
Luther reminds us that redemption, salvation, is from God alone. God’s promised mercy is our fortress; a fortress wide enough for Catholic and Protestant, hip trendy twenty something and Goth, fat and thin, saint and sinner.
My soul is waiting for you, Lord, as one who longs for morning; no watcher waits with greater hope than I for your returning. I hope as Israel in the Lord, who sends redemption through the Word. Praise God for grace and mercy!
The Rev’d Andy Braunston, Minister for Digital Worship and member of the Peedie Kirk URC in Kirkwall, Orkney