Monday, May 25, 2020

Monday of Easter 7

Listen up, Lord!

Psalm 27 (ESV The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

The Seventh Sunday of Easter, Exaudi, gets its name from the first word of the Introit, from Psalm 27:7—“Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud!” Grammatically, exaudi is a second-person singular imperative verb, which is really a bit stronger than “hear”—“listen up” better conveys its intensity.

It seems a bit presumptuous that we tell God to “listen up,” doesn’t it? In fact, many of the Psalms—particularly the “lament” or “complaint” Psalms—make me pause and ask: “How can I talk to the Almighty Creator that way?” For example: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?... Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted” (Psalm 10:1, 12). Who are we to complain or demand an explanation from God, and if He is omniscient, why does He need reminding?

The latter question is philosophical, which means it is not a good one for evaluating a Christian practice such as prayer: in spite of the fact that God’s omniscience seems to render prayer unnecessary, we pray nonetheless because the LORD has commanded us to and promises to hear and answer: “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek’” (Psalm 27:8).

The former question (“who are we to complain?”) is a better one, since it starts from the Bible’s description of us as sinful creatures: not only did God give us life, but by our rebellion we have called down His wrath and deserve whatever punishments might happen. But that’s where grace comes in.

Not only are the Psalms the “prayerbook of the Bible,” they were the prayerbook of Jesus. While David and other Hebrews penned them, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the reason we can pray them (or even pray at all) is because of Christ. Covered by His blood and righteousness, we can stand with confidence before the Father and pray “in the Name of Jesus,” which could be paraphrased as “in the shoes of Jesus.” Yes, we are invited to take the place of “beloved son of God” through “God’s Beloved Son,” which means that there is nothing presumptuous about telling the Father to “listen up”—in fact, He just loves to hear us talk to Him.

As the Small Catechism so beautifully puts it: “Our Father who art in heaven. What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father.”

“Listen up” still sounds presumptuous, though. I wouldn’t tolerate such language from my own children. Or would I? I wouldn’t let them talk to me that way if they were defying me, but what if they needed me? For example, what if they were drowning? More urgent, even bossier, modes of speech are tolerated and even demanded in dire situations. Since every day on this earth is “the day of trouble,” we are in dire need of help from God, so we can cry out to Him at any time: “Listen up! Help me, Lord!”

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, the consolation of the sorrowful and the strength of the weak, may the prayers of those who in any tribulation or distress cry to You graciously come before You, so that in every situation they may recognize and receive Your gracious help, comfort, and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer requests: for Uce Gruetzner, hospitalized with pneumonia; for Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care; for our homebound members: Joe and Lynn Cottle, Carolyn Dube, Duane Gruetzner, Delma Roitsch, Willard and Ann Teinert, Joycelynn Harvey, Virginia Wilkins, Cheryl Kieschnick, Wilbur Gaskamp, Doris George, Alice Kovar, Helen Ray Gustafson, Ruth Wissen.

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