Service June 28, 2020

Hello,

Below is a written copy of the message along with a link to the worship video. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzB-xyfEEAQ 

 

Rev Brad Blikie
Rev Bradford Blaikie

 

 

 

 

June 28, 2020: “Psalm 13: Protest, Petition & Praise”

 

Psalm 13 (GNT)

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Matthew 8:23-25 (NIV)

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Jesuit priest, Father James Martin, tells the following story:

A young man whom I’ll call Aaron came to me for monthly spiritual direction. With palpable sorrow he explained how he felt God had abandoned him after he was diagnosed with a chronic illness. His sense of God’s presence, his ability to see God around him, the ease with which he had once prayed—all had evaporated. Thus his sadness over his physical condition was exacerbated by a sense of abandonment. When I asked him if he had ever prayed about the stilling of the storm, he wept. Just mentioning the passage evoked tears—he instantly connected with the disciples’ feelings of abandonment.

Everyone, at one point or another, will face stormy times – those moments when God’s presence is hard to perceive.

It should come as some comfort to know that this sense of being left on our own is a common experience among God’s people. For evidence of this we need only to look to the book of Psalms. In fact, divine “hiddenness” is one of the central themes of the book, particularly within the first two-thirds of it.

A great example of this is Psalm 13. In six short verses the author, who is believed to be David, expresses the depths of near despair with his refrain of questioning; four times he protests the Lord’s apparent lack of action, asking “How long?”

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

These questions are not simply requesting information, but rather they convey deep suspicions about what God is like, due in part to this apparent lack of action. These questions are an outpouring of deep longing for God to be present and act on our behalf. They are an expression of a faith that is seeking to understand in the midst of painful or challenging experiences.

So many in today’s world live out of a sense of abandonment.

The Hebrew scholar Claus Westermann has pointed out that these words, “How long?” are also found in both Babylonian and Egyptian psalms. He observes that this cry is therefore “not specifically biblical, nor specifically Israelite, but is very, very human”.

After his protest of questions, David begins to petition the Lord to act:

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. 

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death…

It is natural, when faced with life’s challenges, to look for God’s presence and to seemingly not find it. When we are focused on the pain we are experiencing, it makes it difficult to see where God might be at work in other places.

Father Martin continues his story, saying that the next time he met with Aaron they spoke about God’s ability to handle Aaron’s feelings of anger and abandonment:

Expressing his emotions honestly made it easier for Aaron to talk to God honestly, and that in turn enabled him to notice God’s presence in other parts of his life.

Quite often we spend a good deal of time talking about God instead of to God. Yet there is a great comfort in knowing that in moments of frustration or fear that we can, and should, express to God openly and honestly all our questions and concerns.

How true are the words of that classic hymn when it reminds us of

What a friend we have in Jesus

all our sins and griefs to bear

what a privilege to carry

everything to God in prayer.

Father Martin then concludes his story, saying:

Aaron’s honesty didn’t remove the physical pain, but it helped to reestablish an open relationship with God. When you say only the things that you believe you should say, any relationship grows cold, including one with God. Once Aaron was able to be open and transparent in his prayer, he felt God’s presence. “Funny,” he said. “It made me feel calm. Like the sea after Jesus stilled it.”

After verses expressing feelings of abandonment, and after pleading with God to act, David ends his poem with a statement of praise:

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.

This psalm can serve as an example, reminding us that during trying circumstances, our most honest prayers will be an inseparable mixture all three of those elements: protest, petition, and praise; indeed all three belong together.

As we continue to lift our prayer to God, I pray that we will receive the same message as those fearful disciples that day upon the stormy sea: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26)

May the storms that rage around us – and within us – give way to a calm that can only come from the one who commands the wind and the waves; may his words fill us with both hope and peace.

Let us pray…

How long, Lord? Will you forget us for ever?

How long will you hide your face from us?

We pray for those who feel forgotten and unseen, may they know that they are remembered and seen by you God.

Help us to partner with you to remember the forgotten.

Search our hearts to reveal those we hide our faces from, the outcast, the stranger or the homeless. Change our hearts, that we may turn our faces towards these people and see them as your beloved children.

How long must we wrestle with our thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in our hearts?

How long will our enemies triumph over us?

We pray for those we know who struggle with mental illnesses, anxiety and depression. We pray that there will be resources provided to help, enough staff employed and finances given towards mental health services nationally. Help us to be a friend and a listening ear to those who suffer. Fill us with compassion and wisdom.

Ultimately, we pray for those who wrestle with sorrow, that they may know your victory over those dark thoughts which currently seem to triumph.

Look on us and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to our eyes, or we will sleep in death,

and our enemies will say, ‘I have overcome them,’

and our foes will rejoice when we fall.

We pray for those who might be considered fallen by those around them: may they know your restoration and grace. Help us to not judge or exclude your beloved children, but instead lift them up in prayer, and embrace them with the grace we know in Christ.

Thank you, loving God, for hearing our prayer.

We proclaim together:

But we trust in your unfailing love;

our hearts rejoice in your salvation.

We will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to us.

And together, all of God’s people say, Amen.

 

Rev. Bradford Blaikie