Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Heart Cries Out - Psalm 84 and 88 - May 13, 2012

Earlier in our service we listened as Cathie and Nolen shared much of Psalms 84 and 88 in an antiphonal reading.  The two psalms represent the wide boundaries of the wide gulf of our responses to God.  One on side we lift our voices in songs of celebration.  On the other, we cry out in the hard sharp notes of our broken hallelujahs. Our songs and our cries emerge from the deep silence of our heart and transcend words – or language – or culture.  They are the songs and cries to the Creator from those He created in His image. 

For some the idea of crying out to God out of the whole of who we are is a foreign concept.  We have learned and offer well rehearsed prayers in the hopes of saying the right thing at the right time in the right way.  Our prayers can become stiff and staged because we worry about how those around us might hear of us – or what they may think of us if we move from the accepted religious script.  If we are not careful, the audience of our prayers and our songs becomes the crowd around us rather than the God who hears and responds.

Even when we come to God in authentic spirit prayer we are tempted to use “these” and “thous” and other churchy kinds of words hoping that if we say just the right words that our prayers will be acceptable to God. Sometimes we are scared to offer the real words that we feel because we are afraid that we will offend God or make God angry at us. This is not what God intends for us.  God offers us more, much more, than a sterile religious experience filled with just the right words.  God is big enough and loving enough to hear prayers born in the whole of who we are – using the language that honestly reflect our feelings and life experiences.

While Psalms 84 and 88 may set the boundaries, the balance of the Psalms are filled with images people of crying out to God. This is more than a literary devise.  Instead, the Psalms model for us a prayer life with God where the pretence has been pealed back and where they made themselves vulnerable – laid bare spiritually and emotionally - before God.  Their words depict the songs of celebration like the ones we sing in this great room, but speak equally from the deep and sleepless tears shed in the dark of night alone. 

Listen to their voices and listen for where your voice joins theirs;
·         In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6)
·         Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (Psalm 28:2)
·         Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. (Psalm 28:6)
·         “Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were. (Psalm 39:12)
·         My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84:2)
·         I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:147)
·         Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy. (Psalm 130:1,2)from The Message
·         I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy. I spill out all my complaints before him, and spell out my troubles in detail: "As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I'm feeling, Know the danger I'm in, the traps hidden in my path. Look right, look left—
there's not a soul who cares what happens! I'm up against it, with no exit— bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out: 'You're my last chance, my only hope for life!' Oh listen, please listen;
I've never been this low. (Psalm 142:1-5) from The Message
·         You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Psalm 10:17)

Their voices echo our heart. They cry out from the depths of disappointment and despair and from the heights of celebration and joy.  They cry out because they know that God loves them enough to hear them. Listen closely; they understood that they were not crying out to an institutionalized sterilized homogenized iconic view of God, but rather they offer their laughter and their tears, their hopes and their brokenness to a God who created them and calls them by name.

In the New Testament we laugh as we listen to the disciples call out to Jesus when they find their little boat tossed about in the midst of a storm.  How can they be so foolish as to not trust Jesus to carry them through? After all, he is right there in the boat with them.  We laugh until we find ourselves in one of life’s storms and we call out to Jesus – while he is right there in the boat with us.  On another occasion we watch Peter step out of the boat onto the water with Jesus – only to see him call out to Jesus as his faith wavers and he begins to sink.  It is easy to wonder about Peter, until we find our faith is wavering and our feet sinking into the water’s depths. We call out and just like Peter we discover the hand of God. We find ourselves a bit shocked when we listen to Jesus call out to the Father from the Garden of Gethsemane, wrapped in anguish, praying that the cup that pain that awaited him might be taken from him. But in that moment when we hear him utter, “but not my will but thy will be done” we see a cry that holds at one moment both the bitter reality and the promise of hope in God.

There are moments of grand celebration – high school and college graduations, Mothers’ Day, a child’s first step, the joy of hearing the one you love say “I do.”  In these moments we are invited to the throne of God to sing our songs of joy and to thank God for all that God has done in our lives. These moments, and others like them, are worthy of our songs of praise.  But we are equally invited to the throne of God when our heart is broken; when our brokenness overwhelms us; when lose someone we love; when a son or daughter does something that breaks our hearts; When we do not know where we are going, when the future seems remarkably uncertain…..when we wonder if we can make it one more day. God invites us to cry out in all of these moments.  God invites us to bring the whole of us -both our songs of joy and our words born in anger and pain. You can come to God without fear or trepidation. Find freedom in your relationship with God; come to God uncensored.  There are no words or emotions that are too hard for God. God is big enough, strong enough, loving enough, forgiving enough to handle the whole of who we are and the full expression of the cries of our hearts.  God is ready to hear and speak into the full range of our emotions and religious experience. God will not turn us away.

When Joshua stepped in to succeed Moses as the leader of God’s people he was given a promise that I believe is equally true for you and for me. We hear the promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 and it says; 6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” When our heart cries out to God we can be sure that God loves us and hears us.  When our heart cries out to God we can be certain that whether we are in the bright of day or the dark of night we are not alone.  God is with us. God is ready to hear our cry.  Call out to God in the whole of who you are; in your joy and agony. God awaits us and is ready to embrace us.  Cry out.  God is ready to hear and respond. 

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