My first thoughts on this fifth Sunday of Lent centered around my relatively low level of attention for what (in my experience anyway) was always called “the holy season of Lent.” I do not disparage that title; more Christians are likely aware of religious practice during these six weeks than at any other time in the year. It makes me wonder, however, why the fervor doesn’t often last throughout the fifty days of the Easter season. Perhaps we find it easier to do penance than to rejoice! If so, what does that have to say about our image of God? But I digress…
The tenor of my offerings over these last weeks comes, I think, from my conviction that although reminders of special times are important, it is our everyday devotion that will move us toward God, sort of a “one step at a time” approach, and I sometimes think that we become so familiar with certain prayers or practices that they can lose the impact of their meaning for us. Take Psalm 30, for instance. I can recite the whole thing and recognize that we are being called to repentance by the psalmist’s cry, but sometimes it sounds so dire – as if I am the worst sinner in the universe – that I refuse the import of what can be gained by reflection on the meaning and stop at the part about my guilt, thereby missing the resolution in the last verses. I miss both my responsibility to repair relationship and God’s willingness to allow it to happen. Maybe it’s because the psalmist is talking about the relationship of the nation of Israel to God rather than my person. Thus, I come to my point. I find in Lynn Bauman’s translation of Psalm 30 a recognition both of my responsibility for my unworthy actions and an acknowledgment of God’s willingness to hear my longing for the benevolent embrace of forgiveness and love. It only takes the effort of silence to recognize the possibility. Listen to this text below with your heart wide open.
Lord, I am calling to you again, from the depths; in this place of despair hear my voice. Listen, listen, if you will, for I am crying. If you were to note everything, all missteps and offenses, none of us could stand before you uncondemned. But always, always you forgive, and make us whole again, and so we stand in awe before you, waiting. My whole being waits for you, my God, listening for your presence. I long to hear your voice again, speaking. So like a watchman who anticipates the crack of dawn, my heart waits for the first-light of your word. Listen, listen, wait in silence listening for the One from whom all-mercy flows, who is the secret source of our redemption, and the healing of the wounds our sins have caused. (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p. 334)