1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; 2 my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. 3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? 5 All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. 7 For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! 8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? 12 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. 13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
DESPAIR AND TRUST
The psalmist is overwhelmed. In the first two short verses despair is laid bare; trampled, and attacked the psalmist lifts voice, and heart, and faith to God. We can hear, perhaps even feel, the pain in the verses that follow; the tears are real. When the world causes insult and injury, God gathers up tears and provides comfort.
The psalmist is keeping it real, acknowledging the pain, and embracing the comfort of God. No hiding behind the false face of bravery and bravado; just raw, gritty, honesty with self and God. We should learn from the psalmist. We should follow the example before us. How often we become lost in the swirl of our own thoughts and pains, our own struggles and obstacles, only to put on the false face of strength and control, bravery and bravado. Afraid to keep it real with God, ourselves, and others we face the world in our weakness, and carry our burdens alone. The hurts of our world these days are real, the anxieties are high, the burdens are many. A pandemic continues to disrupt our lives and end the lives of millions. Racial disparity and the cries of dialogue, justice, and change are ever before us. Environmental carnage threatens our present and future generations. Political upheaval threatens, even breaks, the bonds of family and friendship. Hunger and homelessness impact too many in our community. Addiction and suicide end lives too soon. The threat of war will not go away. The weight is real, and we can’t bear it alone.
We should learn from the psalmist. We should follow the example before us. As those created in the image of God, we are created for community and relationship with God and one another. We are created to share life together, with God and one another. We are not created to go it alone. Indeed, St. Paul reminds we who are Jesus people and that no amount of calamity, fear, turmoil, or pain will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
It is hard to feel like a conqueror these days. Thankfully, it is not by our own effort, power, strength, or endurance that we conquer the challenges of this world. Instead, it is the effort, power, strength, and endurance of Jesus that has ushered in a new creation. A new creation not defined by anything the world can give; but, instead defined only by that which Jesus has given, is giving, and will give for the sake of the whole of God’s creation. We who are Jesus people, need one another. We need one another to lift one another up, to turn one another to faith, to turn one another to the love of Jesus, to remind one another of who and whose we are. We forgive one another in grace, we hold one another in hope, and we serve one another in love. And as we grow grace, live hope, and serve love as St. Peter’s, we serve as witness to the world around us that faith grown in grace, lived in hope, and served as love brings life and light of Jesus to all creation.