My Life and Salvation - Reflections 3-14-19

Texts for the Second Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2019

Luke 13:31-35

Have you ever had the opportunity to use music for prayer from the Taizé tradition? 

Many pieces of their music utilize short phrases that are sung over and over as an aid to meditation and prayer; a musical mantra, you could say. Use of the song can help you chase away all those pesky thoughts that come darting into your head that draw you away from prayer; you simply acknowledge them and continue to focus on your singing. 

When alone, you can sing on and on. When with others, you need to have a small slice of attention noticing when the community seems to be coming to a close of the song (or be OK with singing in solo).

I once heard an Episcopal priest say at a Taizé service, “We’ll sing until we’re done”. My experience in Lutheran worship isn’t quite that relaxed. Often when we use one of the Taizé pieces for worship we announce that we will sing it 3 times and then we’re done.

The opening phrase of the Psalm for this Sunday is one of my favorite Taizé songs for prayer, alone or in community. 

The Lord is my light, my light and salvation: in God I trust, in God I trust.

Note: I just totally mellowed out – in the zone, you could say – as typing led to humming. 

Psalms are sorted by type*. There are psalms of trust which, yes, express trust in God. There are also lament psalms which name a personal or communal situation from which one asks, challenges, demands (different psalms, different asks) God to resolve. Laments often speak of enemies, evildoers, and foes. If you know much about the occupation forces that moved through ancient Israel’s history, you know that enemies and evildoers were easily very concrete humans for the psalmists. While today we may not have actual armies coming at us, our foes can still be people who manipulate, find fault, abuse, or denigrate us. We also can have a host of internal enemies who point out our errors and inadequacies, who draw out our sense of worthlessness and shame. 

Psalms of trust often move from a lament into a statement of confident trust that God will act on their behalf. Trust claims shelter and security in God’s care despite those things that threaten us. 

You may not think in terms of trust or lament, but they are concepts that speak to human existence. Trust and lament, shelter and threat, come and go in our lives. We cycle through times of calm and conviction to times of fear and sorrow – and back. Our confidence in God’s presence and care also cycles with times of chaos and uncertainty – and back. The two cycles don’t move together. Sometimes fear shifts into a moment of trust and sometimes in fear God feels totally absent. 

Scholars have disagreed about whether Psalm 27 is one of trust or of lament. This psalm starts out strong with trust – God is the stronghold of my life; moves to lament – evildoers close in against me; then returns to trust - This I believe: that I will see the goodness of the Lord. This psalm has some powerful phrases for the push and shove between lament and trust. Try reading it aloud and listen to the expressive words. 

In the Genesis text, Abraham despaired of having progeny (lament). God was very present to him through a promise of uncountable descendants. Abraham believed (trust), and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

The Gospel text presents a different kind of lament. It’s the kind we hear from prophets in the Old Testament who express God’s unhappiness with the way the people disregarded their relationship with God. Prophets tended to be rejected and ignored. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem   to be rejected and killed. He adds God’s perspective – Jesus longs to shelter Jerusalem from… from themselves? from oppressive governments? from political maneuvering and power grabs?  

Jesus declares that God’s steadfast love is like a mother's love and protection of her children. He also says that this offered love and security is rejected by the people.

What are your stories of trust or lament? 

*As in all things biblical, different scholars do not agree on categories. In the different plans, the number of categories varies from 4 through 20. Here is an example list: Praise, Lament, Trust, Thanksgiving, Sacred History, Wisdom, Royal and Enthronement, and songs of Zion.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245