Fifth Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – Coming to the Lord . . . . when there is illness

Seeker: “In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.”
Preacher: There are those amongst us who seek a special refuge and deliverance – those who are ill and do not foresee healing soon. Illness that is prolonged and every increasing is difficult to handle. It is not unusual for those who suffer from it to feel depressed and alone. They come to the Lord for healing and sometimes the answer is “no.”
Seeker: “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.”

Preacher: They are children of God, who suffer like this. But the Lord can seem far from them, remote and uncaring. The Lord is not like that, but from the middle of their illness it may seem like that. An answer of “no” to healing does not mean the Lord is not with them. In fact, the Lord may be especially close to them, walking with them day be day. They need not be ashamed. Their deliverance may come in different ways and at different times, but it will come in the Lord’s time.
Seeker: “You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”

Preacher: For those in ministry, and those who simply walk beside them in life, it can also be a heavy burden. To see someone suffering, and know that there is nothing you can do, can drain even the best of saints. The Lord is there for them too!
Seeker: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.”

Preacher: The psalm passages can be used in such times – times of illness and suffering. Times of depression and downheartedness. The Lord is there at the bottom of one’s endurance and at the end of stamina.
Seeker: “My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.”

Preacher: Who can say what may come of such suffering? The Lord does not bring suffering just to draw us closer, but uses the suffering that comes in this life to invite us to a closer walk with the Divine.
Seeker: “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16)

Preacher: Let us pause in our reflections to remember those amongst us who suffer in the body, whose suffering is brought on by illness that defies human understanding. Let us come to the Lord, and in our thoughts bring with us those who come to mind. May the Lord minister to all us, and in the Lord may we find the healing that lifts us to live everlasting. Selah!

 

[There is a group that I am part of that supports myself and others who are chronically ill. This reflection goes out to them. And the prayer is for them, and for myself. Here I am both Seeker and Preacher – sufferer and minister. In need and giving support to others. If it were not for my own suffering, I would have no idea how much of a privilege it is to support and minister to others. Selah and Amen!]

Liturgy of the Passion: The Psalm Passage – A Chronic and Unavoidable Situation

[For all my fellow RP’ers; and in memory of Gary.]

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.” (Psalms 31:9 – 10)

Every one and any one has had days, weeks, months and even years like this. Perhaps their lifetime. Do not believe that is not possible, beloved reader; a lifetime of misery. Those with chronic conditions, especially chronic pain and disease have levels of discomfort and agony that some can only guess at. I know, because I have a chronic illness. Some days are a struggle to get through, and psalms like this put into words the things I feel and the prayer I lift up.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.” (Verse 11)

It is a friendless and lonely experience, or it can be. When you give voice to your feelings and condition, and are unavailable for simple requests and outings, you tend to get left out.

“I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!— as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.” (Verses 12 – 13)

The psalmist it seems, however, is not talking illness but life situations. That is, events and situations that arise out of actions and not the body’s condition. But for several verses, the words and sentiments paralleled some of my days. And the remedy to that is also one that the psalmist has found.

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;

save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 14 – 16)

There are many of my fellow chronic illness suffers who rely on the Lord for their strength and endurance. We are constantly praying for one another and lifting one another up to the Lord. We encourage and support each other, but also rely on the Divine to comfort and sustain us. While our bodies fail us, we trust that the Lord will not. Though we may suffer, we are surrounded by angels who watch over us. The human body may fail; but the human spirit under girded by the Holy Spirit thrives!

I also want to reminder you beloved reader that this is the psalms passage for Liturgy of the Passion; that this psalm chosen to reflect the Messiah’s situation here at the end of Lent. Hunted down by temple guards, scribes, and the Pharisees. Watched and plotted against by unbelievers and those who wish to see his downfall. But it is not a situation that the Messiah avoids or steps away from. Indeed, he has entered Jerusalem fully expecting it. May our trust in the Divine be as great. Selah!