My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;
They divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.
Every year we read this Psalm on Good Friday. It is a Psalm of Silence put together by someone who knows what it is to be bullied, to have enemies, and to feel that aloneness and emptiness.
We have all had that moment at one point or another in our lives. Maybe it is right now for you.
My mind has turned so many times during Lent to the many around our world and in our communities who suffer, and for whom there seems to be no endpoint, no Resurrection-moment. Oftentimes I feel helpless (maybe you feel that way too) because I cannot find a work-around.
Whether it is the people of Syria, those wounded or killed in terrorist attacks, communities suffering under natural disasters, or those who are unknown and faceless to us who are victims of violence of all kinds in their home or their workplace-Psalm 22 is present all around us. I think of the people of Hoosick Falls in our Presbytery and the neighboring communities around it who are afraid to drink the water, even after new filters have gone in because they had been deceived for so many years and drank water filled with cancer-causing chemicals. I watch the budget negotiations going on across the river at the New York State House that once again are leaving the poor among us behind. Our political process this election season has devolved into the most terrible sort of rhetoric, violence against many communities and people is present in every aspect of this “election season.” It’s easy to identify the places where we or someone else cries all day and all night, and find no rest. And it is easy to be overwhelmed by all of it.
That’s Good Friday.
The day of the pit.
The day of emptiness.
The day of nothingness.
The day of death.
The day of despair.
Today we just sit with all of it. We know that Resurrection is around the corner but go back in time, about 2,000 years ago to when Jesus had been executed on that cross: His followers didn’t know that Resurrection was around the corner and the pit, emptiness, nothingness, death and despair didn’t seem to have an endpoint. Their suffering that day and their fear must have been so extreme and so overwhelming.
Sometimes in the Church we just have to sit in the muck and the mess. And despite the desperation we might feel, we know that an “Alleluia” is around the corner. Little solace that is when we are in the throes of despair. We need each other, the community, to hold us up when we can’t even hold onto ourselves.
Be gentle with yourself today, in the pit, the emptiness, the nothingness, the death and despair….And if you can, remember that in the words of the Psalmist, “In the midst of the congregation, I will praise you.”