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August 9, 2009

Out of the Depths

Several months ago when we were planning worship for the summer I thought I would preach today on the Ephesians passage and talk about anger. I always feel that when the lectionary speaks directly to me about my personal issues I should listen.

But as Sunday approached I found myself leaning more and more to the Old Testament lesson and continuing with the stories of David. So if you came this morning to hear me talk about anger, please don’t get mad. But this morning we are going to stick with David and a related emotion, grief.

Ultimately David’s sadness goes back to his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his shameful set of arrangements that led to her husband’s death. Nathan said and David probably believed that God would bring bad events into David’s life as punishment for what he had done. In that day people believed that blessings came from God as reward for faithfulness and terrible things happened to people as God’s punishment for lack of faithfulness.

In our day we don’t believe this so much anymore since we understand that germs cause disease, not God. Weather systems cause storms, not God. And as Rabbi Kushner said so well, bad things happen to good people. So while we don’t believe God caused David’s son’s death, we do believe that actions have consequences, and when the head of the family behaves with such wanton abandon and lack of regard for others, that may lead to children who go and do likewise.

So whether or not David caused it, one of his sons, Amnon, took an incestuous shine to one of David’s daughters, Tamar. Amnon was eventually driven so insane by his lust that he raped Tamar. Her brother, Absalom takes revenge on Amnon. Then David banishes Absalom from the kingdom. Absalom stews, leads a rebellion against his father the King, and is finally killed.

“When they broke the news to David, it broke his heart, just as simple as that, and he cried out in words that have echoed down the centuries…‘O my son, Absalom, my son, my son. Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son.’ He meant it, of course, If he could have done the boy’s dying for him, he would have done it. If he could have paid the price for the boy’s betrayal of him, he would have paid it. If he could have given his own life to make the boy alive again, he would have given it. But even a king can’t do things like that As later history was to prove, it takes a God.” (From Frederick Buechner’s Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who, Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 5-6.)

David wails before God with his sorrow and his pain. Psalm 130 which Doug sang so eautifully this morning gives us permission to wail out to God from our deepest places of grief, anger, fear, or frustration.

As difficult as David’s relationship with his son might have been, upon news that he has died a humiliating death, the King begins to speak from his depths, this place of deep truth, deep emotion, deep reality.

He prays into the silence of his terror, his fear, his pain. He cries asking God, are you there? God, are you listening? This is our most holy place for conversation with God.

When our grief is too difficult to bear we can dump it onto God. When we have lost so much it feels we have nothing left to lose, we can be honest with our judge. When it hurts too much to face another human being, we can turn to the faceless Almighty. When we are too angry to utter a civil word God can hear our inner suffering.

The Psalmist writes-

1Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.

2Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

This is our most holy place for conversation with God. But the Psalm doesn’t end in the depths with the crying.

The depths hold all of our deepest truths and these are not limited to grief and longing, tragedy and travail.

The Psalmist continues

4But there is forgiveness with you,

and in his word I hope;

For with the LORD there is steadfast love,

and with him is great power to redeem.

Out of the depths we are called to see what is unseen.

Last week I spent time with three adult children as we buried their mother. They saw the unseen.

Through the stories and the love and the care they experienced from friends of their mother they saw part of a life they had never known, they experienced a love they were afraid they had lost.

They were called to see what was unseen.

Out of the depths we discover hope.

I also spent time last week with Tammany and Mike. Just three weeks ago their first child Schyluer was born and then died. They know now that there is no indication that whatever caused Schyluer’s death would keep them from having other children.

Relatively new to the area they are discover a support system they did not know existed. As they begin their healing out of the depths these young parents are discovering hope.

Out of the depths we experience the love God has for us.

Many of you know Margaret Kinnear who has been a member of this congregation for quite some time. Last week she began hospice care. I sat with her and we talked about her loving family. We talked about all the people in Indianapolis who attended her cotillions and the loving memories they have of Margaret. We talked about Kenny, who has been gone several years but she still loves dearly. When I told her how much she will be missed she simply smiled and said,

“It is alright. I am going to be with God.”

Out of the depths of dying she is experiencing the love God has for her.

Out of the depths of our fear we hear the command- Do not be afraid.

Out of the depths of our terror we proclaim Alleluia.

Out of the depths of the death of one we love

the Lord cries I am the Resurrection and I am Life.

Out of the depths the psalmist reminds us

comes the entire sacred story of our human experience.

We speak the indescribable language of grief and fear,

hope and promise.

It is the place of our most sacred and honest conversation with God.

From our depths we wail and weep

in the face of death and torment.

From our depths

we hope and dream of a seat at the table in the Kingdom of God.

Out of our depths.


We speak to God.

God listens and God cares.




On-line Scripture Commentary-

Out of the Depths - Sermon on Psalm 130 by The Rev. Benno Pattison, Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, GA.


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