Sunday, March 29 – Fifth Sunday in Lent

Reader: “Hear my cry, O Lord.”

Response: “Pay attention to my prayer.”

Scripture: Psalm 130

From the depths of despair, O Lord,

    I call for your help.

Hear my cry, O Lord.

    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,

    who, O Lord, could ever survive?

But you offer forgiveness,

    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;

    yes, I am counting on him.

    I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord

    more than sentries long for the dawn,

    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;

    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.

    His redemption overflows.

He himself will redeem Israel

    from every kind of sin.

Reader: The word of the Lord.

Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
Psalm 130 is one of the classic psalms of lament. In these days of the Lenten season, repentance is a central theme. This psalm gives us a beautiful pattern of the process. In the opening plea, we hear from a person in deep despair. They have given up fighting the problem on their own and simply call to the Lord for help. The next sentence reveals something of the relationship between the one praying and the Lord with the words “Hear my cry, Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.” To pray those words says something about the transparency of the relationship and about God himself. The one praying is addressing the Lord in the same manner as if he were talking face to face with a friend. “Pay attention to what I’m saying. I’m hurting.” He then goes on to admit if the Lord kept track of all our sins in a book, we’d all be dead! He is not trying to hide anything before the Lord. Transparency is essential in repentance and confession. What follows is interesting. God offers forgiveness so we can learn to fear him. How does that work? 

“Fear” in this sense I believe follows along the lines of Luther’s explanation. There is a kind of fear that is truly afraid of heavy punishment. This is not that kind of fear. It is more like that of a child having great love and respect for her parents and wanting to please them. She has a fear, not because she is afraid of punishment from her mother, but rather of not wanting to disappoint her. This fear grows out of great affection and sense of security. The next sentence affirms this love with the words “I’m counting on the Lord . . . I put my hope in his word.” We see this love and longing continuing in the next line mirroring the sentries’ longing for the end of night and the light of another day, a beautiful image for lamenting heart. (Remember Jesus’ frequent use of the light motive?) Then the psalmist becomes a preacher! To this point, he has been expressing his own heart. Now he speaks to the whole community. And sure enough, he speaks of God’s great love and redeeming power. The very last sentence speaks a word of prophecy. God himself will redeem Israel and the whole world from every kind of sin―on the cross of calvary. This psalm is also known by its Latin name―De profundus, “out of the depths.”

Music: “De Profundus”   Kings College Choir Cambridge

O thou great Chief, light a candle in my heart, that I may see what is therein, and sweep the rubbish from thy dwelling place.     An African schoolgirl’s prayer