Friday, August 13, 2021 (Day 69)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 69 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Rescue me, God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I have sunk in the slime of the deep,
and there is no place to stand.
I have entered the watery depths,
and the current has swept me away.
I am exhausted from my calling out.
My throat is hoarse.
My eyes fail from hoping for my God…
I am lowly and hurting.
Your rescue, O Lord, will protect me.

An Opening Word
Sometimes we need permission to complain. Sometimes things are so hard we can’t help but complain because our very crying out is the only way help will come. Psalm 69 helps us remember that crying out to God in hardship and physical impossibilities is an ancient practice as urgent then as now. “The waters have come up to my neck” reminds me of the horrors of hurricane Katrina, or other flash flood events that take us by surprise. “I have sunk in the slime of the deep” could be a metaphor, of course, but it also reminds me of the time I was hiking in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and stepped in what looked like a shallow puddle but was actually a bellybutton-deep pool of mud. “I am exhausted from my calling out” has a real wilderness-rescue tone to it, those harrowing stories of people injured and lost far from help, and the Psalmist in true Hebrew poetic form, doubles down on the image saying “my throat is hoarse,” evoking many hours of crying out. “My eyes fail from hoping for my God” remind us that sometimes we watch for help on the horizon for so long that our eyes blur and our head pounds. This is a tangible Psalm, one that, though ancient has twenty-first century teeth.

Today’s mystic is surprisingly well known St. Paul of Tarsus. You know the one, he wrote many of the letters in the New Testament, but only after a life-changing spiritual encounter with the living Christ that left him blind, and convinced him to stop persecuting Christians and preaching the radical, life-affirming gospel of Jesus Christ instead. Something happened there on the road to Damascus. His whole world was turned upside down. His allegiance changed. His old hopes and dreams vanished. He had an “ah ha” moment. Here is how he describes what happened:

“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (You can read the rest of the story here)

Prayer from the Mystics: St Paul of Tarsus approx. (5–67 c.e.)
May the God of hope
fill you with all joy
and peace
in believing,
so that you may
abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.