Sunday 3rd March 2024 Reverend Sue Cossey

Sunday, 3 March 2024
The Third Sunday of Lent Psalm 22 16 – 32

Parched as burnt clay is my throat,
my tongue cleaves to my jaws.

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
and lay me in the dust of death.

I can count every one of my bones.
These people stare at me and gloat;
they divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.

O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!
Rescue my soul from the sword,
my life from the grip of these dogs.
Save my life from the jaws of these lions,
my poor soul from the horns of these oxen.

I will tell of your name to my people
and praise you where they are assembled.
“You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all children of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, children of Israel.

For he has never despised
nor scorned the poverty of the poor.
From them he has not hidden his face,
but he heard the poor when they cried.”

You are my praise in the great assembly.
My vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live for ever and ever!

All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord,
all families of the nations worship before him;
 for the kingdom is the Lord’s, he is ruler of the nations.
They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust

And my soul shall live for him, my children serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn:
“These things the Lord has done.”

Reflection

In 2008, BBC2 showed the film ‘God on Trial’, based on a book by Elie Wiesel.  Wiesel, an  Auschwitz survivor, based his book in 1649, but the film was set in Auschwitz.  A group of prisoners, who knew that some had been selected for the gas chambers, put God on trial for breaking the Covenant, and their verdict was ‘guilty’.  At  the end, they left the hut praising God.  This left a vivid impression on me – how could they praise God in that situation?

Last year I visited Auschwitz and found it profoundly disturbing.  The exhibits, the stories, the bleakness led me to question how humans could treat other humans so cruelly.  The latest conflict (as I write) between Hamas and Israel raises similar questions.

In the psalm, the image of the psalmist in the first part of this passage reminded me of the photographs at Auschwitz – people starving, people with bones you can count, people surrounded by soldiers gloating.  The psalmist calls out to God to be saved, with faith that rescue will come.  The conviction that God has never despised nor scorned the poor, and hears their cry stands out.

From this position, the psalmist can go on with a certain hope and conviction that there will be a return to the Lord, that all will worship the ruler of the nations.

From the lowest point, lying in the dust surrounded by enemies, the psalmist has turned to a position of praise, of faith and of hope.

It may be that you or those close to you are enduring a time of difficulty – of illness or sorrow.  At these times, we may question God’s presence, we may experience anger, disbelief and other emotions.  Psalms such as this give us permission to question and to lament.  God is with us in our sorrow, in our suffering, and can accompany us in that time, till we are ready to move forward, praising God and declaring his faithfulness.

Prayer

Lord, when I struggle with life, when everything is too difficult, when pain and grief overtake me, help me to remember that this time will pass, and help me to hope. 

Lord, when I am angry with my situation, and with you, help me to believe that you are with me, holding me, loving me, absorbing my anger.

Lord, lead me to a place where I can worship.

Amen

 
 

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Sue Cossey, NSM and Synod Pastoral Advisor, Bristol Area.  Member of Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell

Copyright

The Psalms: An Inclusive Language Version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew © 1963, 1986 The Grail (England) GIA Publications

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