A Reading from Psalm 102
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call.
3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is stricken and withered like grass;
I am too wasted to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning,
my bones cling to my skin.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 Indeed, I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger,
for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like a lengthening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
your name endures to all generations.
13 You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to favor it;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold its stones dear
and have pity on its dust.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord
and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16 For the Lord will build up Zion;
he will appear in his glory.
17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute
and will not despise their prayer.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height,
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 so that the name of the Lord may be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to serve the Lord.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “do not take me away
at the midpoint of my life,
you whose years endure
throughout all generations.”
25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you endure;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like clothing, and they pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall live secure;
their offspring shall be established in your presence.
The psalm for Maundy Thursday — 102 — begins “hear my prayer.” And goodness, what a prayer it is. The psalmist’s days drift away like smoke, her heart is smitten like grass and withered (so that she forgets to eat), she’s skin and bones, vultures attempt to devour her, her enemies hate her — it’s a bad spot for our psalmist. It’s a difficult spot, but it isn’t an altogether unfamiliar one.
Most of the psalms are lamentations. Most of the psalms have some sort of dramatic — even hyperbolic — recognition that the world is not as it’s supposed to be, and (for goodness’ sake) how long is it going to take for God to do something about it? But the psalm shifts its focus about halfway through. “But you, O LORD, endure forever.” The psalmist doesn’t fool herself into thinking that the world is sunny and fine, but she remembers God, and it gives her hope. She believes that God will do something about the problem of evil. “You will arise and have compassion.”
There is an enemy. But there is a far better promise: the Lord endures forevermore and he has come and is coming with compassion. The Lord endures, even to the point of giving himself in bread and wine. In giving himself to us, Jesus unites us with him, and testifies to our spirit that we belong to God. God is arisen, reminding us of his incomprehensible compassion over and over and over again.
Chase Benefiel is a friend, Tennesseean, preacher, and student (in that order) currently finishing his M.Div. at Duke Divinity School.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Episcopal Church in Minnesota
The Diocese of Salisbury – The Church of England