Baring Your Soul

Scripture Focus: Psalm 102.16-21
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion 
and appear in his glory. 
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; 
he will not despise their plea. 
18 Let this be written for a future generation, 
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: 
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, 
from heaven he viewed the earth, 
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners 
and release those condemned to death.” 
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion 
and his praise in Jerusalem 

Reflection: Baring Your Soul
By John Tillman

Who do you bare your soul to when complaints bubble up from your heart? A stranger? A work colleague? 

It can be a horrible day, yet when strangers ask, “How are you?” we’ll mumble, “Fine. How are you?” and move along.

What is really lacking in these interactions is trust. How can we share deep hurt with those we do not trust deeply? In his commentary on Psalm 102, Federico Villanueva says, “We normally do not express our negative emotions to people we don’t know well, because it is like baring our soul.”

The first problem is one of understanding. A complex work-related problem will get blank stares from those uninformed about our industry. Our financial fears will seem either fanciful or frivolous to those outside our socio-economic level. Someone who doesn’t experience the same prejudices we face can’t truly know how it feels to be discriminated against.

Another hesitation comes when we fear judgment. If we complain, won’t they find us selfish? If we are angry, won’t they be afraid of us? If we are fearful, won’t they be ashamed of us?

Those with whom we have a loving, trusting relationship, however, can be trusted. We trust them to give us the comfort we need and to correct our shortcomings without despising us for our weaknesses.

Lament must be reserved for those who love us. This is why God is the perfect person to whom we can take all our laments.

Villanueva points out that Psalm 102 has sections of lament layered between hymns declaring trust in God. As you take your harshest, most raw emotions to God, sandwich them with statements of trust. Jesus modeled this in his darkest moments in Gethsemane. “Take this cup away” is balanced with a trust in God’s will. “Not my will, but yours.”

This is not to “stay positive” or spare God’s feelings. It is a reminder to us that the very reason we can pour out our deepest hurts to him is that God is worthy of our deepest trust. It is because he is holy that he is good.

The psalmist wrote this for us. We are those people, “not yet created,” who are mentioned by the psalmist. Jesus also mentioned us in prayer and has a special attentiveness to those hurting, struggling, and doubting.

Open up to Jesus today. Bare your soul to the most trustworthy listener.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the broken hearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed. — Psalm 34.17-18

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 24-25  (Listen 7:01)
Psalms 102 (Listen 2:45)

Read more about Lamenting With Job
Lament can swallow up complaining in our lives. Lament is frequent and important in the Bible and should be in our lives as well.

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Christ, the True Hero

Psalm 101.8
Every morning I will put to silence
   all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
   from the city of the Lord.

Luke 12.48b
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Reflection: Christ, the True Hero
By John Tillman

Superhero origin stories often contain a moment of dedication defining the hero’s identity, mission, and philosophy. The simplest, and perhaps most resonant with truth, is the six-word proverb that guides the moral compass of Peter Parker’s universe: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is a stripped-down, modern rephrase of Luke 12:48.

Superheroes aren’t new. (In terms of culture and Christendom, the 1960s are still new.) Spider-man, Batman, and other heroes are throwbacks in both style and purpose to the tales of flawed, human-like Greco-Roman gods, intended to inspire stoicism and virtue as well as entertain.

Though this lens, we often see biblical figures as superheroes. In that vein, Psalm 101 (from yesterday’s readings) reads as if it is David’s superhero oath.

Charles Spurgeon called this Psalm a, “Psalm of Pious Resolutions.” Some scholars, including Spurgeon, believe this Psalm may have been written by David just prior to or just after being made the king of Israel.

Our cultural “superhero” lens can cause us to see ourselves as the “hero” in biblical accounts. However, imagining that God might use us to defeat a giant as David did isn’t much more life-changing than imagining that we might be able to lift a bus or fly through the air. It’s just moralism dressed in a super-suit.

The deeper truth of Spider-man’s proverb is that the powerful are seldom responsible. Most of the villains in Spidey’s universe are men or women with great power, who start as Peter’s friends and turn to evil. Even Peter fails to live up to his own beliefs.

We cannot live up to oaths such as Psalm 101. Neither could David. David would eventually bring corruption, rape, murder, and the ravages of civil war to the city which in this Psalm he pledges to protect.

It is not that we cannot be used by God in miraculous (or super) ways. Rather that, as Christians, it is more important that we realize that we need a hero than that we pledge to be one. It is Christ, the Son of David, who ultimately will fulfill David’s pledge in this Psalm.

When we pray prayers like this Psalm, we are praying that Christ, the true hero, will fulfill these actions in us. We are not the saviors, but the ones in need of saving. It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Your strengthen me more and more; you enfold me and comfort me. — Psalm 71.21

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 15 (Listen – 3:20) 
Psalm 102 (Listen – 2:45) 

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Read more about Who is this King of Glory?
May we let go of our heroic versions of kings and watch the lamb of God, ride his borrowed donkey, straight to his borrowed tomb.

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