One of my favorite moments of the week is really a half hour. It happens every Tuesday noon at our weekly “Lunch with the Psalms” offering at the Sophia Center. As it has evolved, nobody brings a lunch. Rather we just “chew on” the psalm of the day from the lectionary for the Eucharist. We look at different translations, reading reflectively and comparing word choices, then considering the meaning and applications – sometimes for our world and sometimes for our personal lives. Sometimes we just bask in the language itself.
Yesterday there were only two of us present for this weekly feast but, as we often remember that “where two or three are gathered,” Christ says, “there I am in the midst of them,” it was delightful. Our consideration was Psalm 30 and in one of the alternate translations we chuckled at the part that sounded like a teenager addressing God but were caught in a different way with the vivid lines that expressed a more mature relationship. I decided it would be worth sharing the entire text here today, followed by the most evocative lines of commentary, in hopes that you might share our experience of God’s faithful servant, the psalmist, in the vicissitudes of life and know again the constancy of God’s care.
It is you I praise, my God. You took me by the hand to lift me high up off the ground. You did not let my adversaries trample over me. O God, when I called out to you, you heard my cry for help and nursed me back to health again. I was dying and you revived me. It is you who saved my life when I was spiraling down. Let everyone who serves you praise the sacred name we know and now confess. If indeed you are ever angry, God, it flashes out for one brief moment and then is gone, but your kindness never fades even for an instant. It is life itself. Tears may wash me through the night, but when the morning breaks your joy awaits.
Once in great prosperity, with grace abounding, foolishly I said, “I will never be disturbed. I am as strong and sure as any mountain.” But suddenly, it was as if you were not there. It was as though your face had turned away. I found myself in deep despair. I called, I cried, I begged for pity, Lord. I argued with you. “God,” I said, “What good would it do you if I vanished into death? And would the dust that’s left when I am gone keep promise or speak your praise? Lord, listen, hear and help me now,” I pled and prayed.
Then suddenly, you turned my mourning into dancing, you stripped the rags of grief away and wrapped me round with your astounding joy. Now from my heart there pours unceasing song, a voice with music and with praise, that will sing on to you forever. (Psalm 30)
Question: The contrast between depression and despair and joy are great in this psalm. What is the experience of joy? Is it simply that the problems of life are resolved in your favor, or is there something more and deeper than this?