Christians are often referred to as “People of the Book”, and that we are. The Bible guides us in our understanding of our spiritual journey. But, we could also be called “People of the Psalms”. Episcopalians put a huge emphasis on the importance of the Book of Psalms. We read a psalm every time we meet. For those that follow the Daily Office readings in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, or for those that read the daily readings in the “Day by Day”, that we offer for those that want them on the back table in the narthex., the entire psalms are read every seven weeks. @ seven and a half times a year.
Our Psalm for today is Psalm 130. This psalm is grouped with 6 other psalms as Penitential Psalms, and include Psalm 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. The similarity of these 7 psalms is the need for confession and forgiveness, our desire for forgiveness and the wonderful mercy and love of the Lord. As the hymn that captures this wonderful message of mercy: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness O Lord, Great is Thy faithfulness.”
Psalm 130 starts out this way: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord”! Thousands of climbers have successfully climbed Mt. Everest, the highest point on earth. Only two people have descended to the planet’s deepest point, an area not far from Guam in the Pacific Ocean, a place known as the Challenger Deep, Challenger Deep is over 7 miles deep. If you stuck Mount Everest on the bottom, it would still be a mile to the surface of the water. The only two that went this far was in 1960 in a US Navy submersible by Jacques Piccard and Navy Lt. Don Walsh.
Sometimes our troubles are so deep, the depths of despair, the deep waters of turmoil, “O Lord hear my voice, let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy”. Last week Deacon Phil was preaching about the time the disciples were going across a lake. The disciples thought the worst was about to happen, and the storm waves rocked their boat. Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. The disciples woke him up saying desperately: “Jesus, don’t you care that we are close to losing this boat and possibly our lives?” (Mark 4) Jesus woke up, probably stretched a couple of times and turned to the water and said: “Peace be still”, and the storm subsided. Jesus is there with us during the storm, but as Deacon Phil says: “Sometimes we might have to wake Jesus up”. We know that’s not true, but it sometimes feels that way. That’s the way it feels. “God are you here”?
“God are you here? I know you are with your church, and I know you are in the world, working with people, but are you here with me? Are you in the margins? Are you with those in our world that are trapped: Trapped with substance abuse; trapped in poverty, trapped in sickness, trapped in despair, trapped in loneliness, trapped in chronic homelessness and trapped in fear”? Bound up with cares and overwhelmed by those things that so easily trap us. Paul instructs us in Galatians to “Stand fast in the liberty in which we have been called and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) Stand fast in the liberty and the freedom that you have been called to.
I have been asked why I spend time with people on the margins, people that are chronically homeless, the forgotten and confused people on the streets of this city. My answer is this: “Jesus is in the margins. Jesus is in the deep waters. Just as Jesus is in the heart of this church, God is just as present in the threads that run lengthways and the threads that run crossways (the warp and woof of our lives)
One of the reasons we do public confession in our church is to ask God for forgiveness for those things we know we have done wrong, like things that we have done that might hurt other people and things that we have done that affect our walk with God. That’s the first part of our prayer, and the second is to ask forgiveness for those things we have done wrong that we do unwittingly, things we have done wrong, but not on purpose.
Repentance is not a one-time shot. It’s something we should do often, and as a church we have public confession almost every time we meet. It is during these times of confession that we know we will have what we ask for. “But with you there is forgiveness. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I put my hope”. Even in the margins and the depths of the deep water, God is with us, and with fearless love we live within the lampstands of the light of Gods presence. We are invited to the altar, to the most holy place, and we are invited to the table of the Lord, to drink from the cup of salvation and eat the bread of heaven. This is where we are invited to live our lives every day, not just on Sundays. This presence is with us wherever we go.
“My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchman waits for the morning, more than the watchman wit for the morning”. The watchmen were stationed on the walls of the ancient cities. They watched through the hours of the night those things that might threaten the town from outside the walls like thieves and animals, and those things that go “bump in the night”, both inside the city and outside the city. And, they wait patiently for the morning.
“O Israel put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption”. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. “He himself will redeem Israel from all their sin. We know this passage was written at the time for the nation of Israel, but in the New Testament the church is referred to as the “true Israel of God” Just as Jerusalem takes on a new meaning as the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem. The city whose architect and Maker is God.
OUT OF THE DEPTHS I CRY TO YOU, OH LORD, HEAR MY VOICE!
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen