Psalms of Lament: Hope in God

Psalms of Lament  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  19:00
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Let us pray…Gracious and loving God, on this first Sunday in Lent, we are standing at the stream of life and longing for your presence amongst us in this time that seems to be a never ending period of grief, despair, sorrow, and sadness. We are ready to celebrate and be able to praise you once again. We know there is work to do and so now we ask that you would join our hearts and our spirits with you that we might have open eyes and ears to see and hear your words for us this day, Amen.
This morning, I am going to pick up a little bit from where I left off on Wednesday evening. So, if you have not had a chance to do so yet, I would invite you to watch the recording of the live streamed worship from Wednesday evening to understand a little bit of where I am going with our Psalm this morning.

Psalm 42

With that being said, let’s jump into this Psalm because there is much to be said…we started this journey of studying the Psalms on Wednesday evening with Psalm 25. That was a Psalm attributed to David in which we said he is doing a lot of introspection and study of who his enemies truly are. And to be honest, looking in the mirror into our own hearts, is harder than anything we will ever do.
And, the Psalm we have before us this morning helps us to dig a little deeper into ourselves. So, let’s look at a few lines...
Psalm 42:4 NLT
My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!
This is likely something that we have all said very recently…in fact, it is a refrain that I have heard repeated many times over the last 12 months. We long for a time when we can gather physically in our worship space. I get it, I feel it too. In these few short phrases, I think, the Psalmist really lays out how we have been feeling.
In his words, he is saying that he remembers all too well how it felt to be able to go to the Temple or Tent of Meeting (likely in this case), leading others to the worship of God. How the time there seemed to be so good and so happy. And now, for whatever reason, he is no longer able to do that.
Again, not unlike our last year of unending Lent, we have not been able to find the solace and rest and joy that we feel when we are in our historic sanctuary, with all of the beautiful stained glass windows, the rich sound of the organ or piano, the joy that we get from being amongst others who are there for the same reason…to thank God for all that we are and have. Here’s the thing though, if this last year has taught us anything, we can have and will have that feeling again.
I know that being away from each other is hard. Like what the Psalmist writes three times, my soul is downcast, we feel that longing and deep desire, almost a sadness that cannot be overcome because we cannot do those things which bring us so much joy. Again, I say there is hope. Look gang, despite the fact that we have not been in the physical worship space, we have been in each other’s presence, here in this space. God has given us the ability to continue in our worship and praise, giving thanks for all that we have. I hear you already saying, but it’s not the same, and before you start yelling at your screen, is it really not the same? Look deep in your hearts, do you not feel my presence with you this morning? Do you not feel God’s presence in this time of reflection?
Now, I want to lift up something the Psalmist says in my defense of what I am saying here...
Psalm 42:5 NIV
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
We are praising God across the miles and the generations. I know most of you do not know this, we are reaching people, because of this virtual worship space, that cannot be with us even if we were in physical worship. Our reach and the stretch of our love has met with folks across this country. Putting our hope in God, like the Psalmist said, has helped us to touch lives far beyond what we could ever imagine.
I could easily stop there because, to me, that is what God calls us to do and be in this world…reaching and changing lives, one life at a time. But the Psalmist does not end there and so I am not going to either…sorry, not really.
I want for us to go deeper, to dig deeper in this season of Lent. The Psalms of Lament that we will be studying will help us to do that… but I also want for us to look at some passages that might help us to get it, and I mean really get. I want to look next at something that has echoes into the life of Christ...
Psalm 42:9–10 NIV
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
I don’t know about you all but there is something that sounds so familiar in these words…do you remember some of the last words that Christ ever spoke from the cross? Yep, that’s right...
Matthew 27:46 NIV
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Let’s take a step back for a moment…if we are all feeling much like the Psalmist that God has forgotten us, to be honest, we are in really good company. In this passage from Matthew, Jesus cries out to God in his agony and sorrow, likely quoting this Psalm mind you, for God’s restoration and healing. Look gang, Jesus could have healed himself, he had the ability if he truly wanted to, to get off that cross and end his pain and suffering. But he did not. Does this mean that we all need to jump on the cross, absolutely not. Trust me, I have felt like I was on the cross enough times to know that it is not a place that I ever want to be again. However, Jesus teaches us something in this time that the Psalmist is trying to tease out with his words as well.
Sometimes, despite our desire to not be in a situation, God uses our hard times to make us stronger. Or sometimes God desires for us to learn a lesson that we just were not getting any other way. Just sometimes, God is not punishing us but rather using our hard situations to remind us upon whom we should truly be relying rather than on our own will. Think about that for a moment…sometimes, our tough spots in life and difficult situations are there to help us to turn back to God. I mean, isn’t that when we cry out to God the most any way?
Look, I get it. This last year has been hard. There is much for which we can be sorrowful. There is so much going on in this world that is unjust and oppressive. There is so much that we cannot do because we cannot physically be together. But yet, the Psalmist reminds us...
Psalm 42:11 NIV
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
At the end of this Lenten journey, there is hope. We will get back to physical worship, one way or another. We will be together physically for fellowship and laughing and praising God. Notice the common factor in everything I have said this morning…it is God.
God does not desire for us to be saddened by our situations. God does not say that we should not feel saddened (I have not seen that in the Bible, at least), but God also does not promise that our lives of faith will always be the bowl of cherries that have already been pitted. If anyone ever tells you differently, I would caution how much faith you put into their words. Jesus cried out to God from the cross…it was not easy, it was not the bowl of cherries, and it was painful. However, at the end of his time on the cross, he rose from the grave and there was an empty tomb. Not to rush us to that point, I am just saying that there is hope. WE can put our trust and faith in God to know that at the end of all of this stuff, there is something greater in store for us…it is already happening. At this point, I am just wondering if we are able to get beyond our grief to truly see it and praise God for all that we have already received, because I think that is really our challenge for this time. Amen.
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