“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.”
The Psalmist sums up exactly where we have been, you and I, these past many days. If there’s been any time in our collective lives where it has felt like we are sinking to the depths of the ocean, that the water has washed over us and we are drowning, that time is now. “From the depths I call out to you, O Lord God, please hear my cry.” Please, Lord, do not leave me to fend for myself, I need you. It feels like this is it. That the end is coming upon us, and I don’t know what to do. God, help.
My good friend priest and theologian Rich Simpson invites us to pay attention to what comes next in this Psalm, “Notice… that the pray-er [of this Psalm] does not feel completely innocent. If this is the end, there are some regrets. If God were to note what is done amiss, O Lord who could stand? Unlike Frank Sinatra in ‘My Way,’ it sounds like there may be more than a few regrets and some amount of shame or guilt.” And then the Psalmist does something remarkable, she reminds the Lord that God offers forgiveness. That God does not withhold the mercy we need as we face the depths of despair.
Because friends, we need mercy and grace at this time rather than shame and guilt. Online I’ve seen parents of younger kids joke about how they are less than stellar when it comes to homeschooling. And there have been offhanded comments about over-eating while at home and wondering how much weight we might gain at the end of this. For a brief time such things are slightly humorous—a quick witty statement during a time of distress—but underneath that lies the shame we feel that we aren’t doing enough. That we aren’t good enough. That even in the midst of a global pandemic we need to be measuring ourselves against others to make sure we are accepted both by others and God. “For there is forgiveness with you.” There is mercy and grace to be found with God.
And so our Psalmist waits for the Lord. Her soul waits for God, for in God’s word is her hope. She waits for God more than night watchmen long for the dawn of morning. The ones who have their eyes fixed on the eastern horizon waiting for that light to appear, the Psalmist yearns for God even more than that.
Because with the Lord there is plenteous redemption. There is redemption and redemption and redemption, more than enough to go around for us all. God’s saving—God’s rescuing and reviving and uplifting of us—well, there’s more than we can even begin to imagine. It’s more than the number of stars in the skies. It’s greater than all the grains of sand on the beach. That redemption of God blows away any sort of meager understanding we carry in our hearts about God’s mercy for us. We think God won’t be with us because of something we’ve done, and the Psalmist reminds us that God’s grace and love more than overflows onto all the people of this world. God cherishes us all.
I read an amazing article this week by Ruby Sales. Ruby’s life was saved by Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal Seminarian, when she was a child, back in the civil rights movement, costing Daniels his own life. Since then, she has lived seeking justice for all. She opens her essay with these words, “We are not at war. Rather we are facing a humanitarian crisis. Our lives and futures depend on knowing the difference.” She goes on to explain the difference. “A war creates enemies/ [an] us against them atmosphere. At its core wars are contentious and depend on hatred and anger towards one’s enemies. Wars promote and demand that we accept the idea that some people are collateral damage whose suffering and death are essential for a long term victory.”
She continues, “A humanitarian crisis on the other hand creates neighbors rather than enemies. It creates an environment of caring compassion, regard, empathy and helpfulness towards each other. In other words, unlike wars a humanitarian crisis starts by reaffirming the value of every human being. Consequently, saving lives drives its mission and approaches to addressing and ending a crisis. Redemption, restoration, and resurrection in a humanitarian crisis emerge out of a life affirming ethic.” (https://radicaldiscipleship.net/2020/03/27/we-are-not-at-war/)
The difference is playing out in our response to this crisis. This weekend vigilantes toting guns on an island off the coast of Maine cut down a tree in order to block a driveway demanding an out-of-towner who had recently arrived there stay quarantined and away from the locals. We’ve heard reports from at least one government official—although I suspect more are hinting at this—suggesting that a 1 or 2% loss of American lives might be worth it to get our economy back up and humming. They don’t do the math out, of course, because saying we’d sacrifice 3-6 million of us on the altar of capitalism sounds a bit too gauche.
And while it’s easy to cast stones at government officials for such statements, I wonder about our own conversations. When someone dies right now we feel the need to clarify if it is related to COVID-19 or not. As if the person possibly did something wrong, didn’t wash their hands enough or take the orders to stay home seriously enough, and that’s why they got sick. That the ones becoming ill should somehow be ashamed for being “captured by the enemy.” That they are at fault, rather than saying that our world is now less because an image bearer of God has left it, or asking one who has become ill how we can help sustain them and their loved ones.
With the Lord there is plenteous redemption.
Friends, hold onto the hope in God’s word that with God there is steadfast love. With God there is redemption and restoration and, yes, even resurrection. Let us hold firmly onto that hope as it feels like the waters are rising higher around us. Let us believe in God’s grace as we look toward that eastern horizon waiting for the sun to rise. And let us share in giving that hope to others becoming better neighbors through caring and compassion. Let us rise up together in solidarity as we continue to embrace physical distancing in order to care for one another, but let’s also practice social connecting so that we do not feel alone. Let us pray for those most impacted, for God’s mercy to be with them with the ones who are attending them in our hospitals. All of us are beloved children of God, and with the Lord there is mercy. May we embrace and cling to this hope, this mercy, this grace, because resurrection is coming. Amen.