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Lent Readings

Readings Begin February 18

Daily Lent Readings

"He is risen, indeed!" Lent has passed but that doesn't mean the daily readings have to go away. Some of you might be discovering this page for the first time. Others who participated during Lent might find it helpful to revisit a particular reading. For these reasons, we will leave this page up for a while.
We pray that you experience the wonder of interacting with our Savior in a personal, transformative way!
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"A New Light Shining" painting by Youngsung Kim from Havenlight
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Day 23

Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Psalm 22:1-8
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
   and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
   enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
   they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
   in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
   scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
What Is This Psalm About?  
This searing lament pours out from someone undergoing severe torment from enemies. Death appears imminent. He cries to God for deliverance but, at first, perceives no reply. David feels absolutely abandoned. The language is so extreme that it seems like poetic hyperbole. Who could come back from such torture to write this beautifully? Yet from earliest days, Jesus’ disciples see that what may have been extreme poetic language for David becomes horrifyingly descriptive of what Jesus undergoes on the cross.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
How can we grasp Jesus’ despair? We can inch towards remembering small abandonments. Like when texts repeatedly don’t get answered. Then your number gets blocked. Then no one will answer the door. Suddenly, sickeningly, comes the realization you are no longer wanted. Or bigger abandonments. The night the loved one, the needed one, departs without explanation. Disappears forever, leaving you with the lonely embarrassment. And the enduring shame that you must have done something to deserve this, though you know not what. 
On the cross Jesus feels the dismay of feeling abandoned without cause. All his life, he has felt the Father’s presence and pleasure. He has rejoiced because he is the beloved Son. Untainted by the obscuring effects of sin, Jesus has continually experienced God’s favor. The way we feel the sun’s warmth, Jesus has felt the Father’s shining upon him. The Father’s enveloping love is the atmosphere of Jesus’ life.
Until now. Hung on the cross in physical agony, Jesus reaches with his soul towards his Father. But he can’t find him. God seems gone. At high noon, darkness falls across the land (Matthew 27:45). To the people on the ground, the sun has stopped shining. For Jesus, it is worse. His Father’s face no longer shines on him in blessing. Rather, a place inside Jesus that has always been filled to overflowing has emptied utterly. Where is the Father? As we have seen, when stress presses in on Jesus, Scripture flows from his lips. Now he cries, in his desperation, words he has learned but never before experienced: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 
Theologians call this the “moment of dereliction.” A derelict building is an abandoned building which, no longer fit for human occupancy, will be demolished. A derelict person no longer seems fit for society. Disengaged from usual interaction and all the responsibilities that make life feel valuable, a derelict appears bound for the pit. To enter dereliction is to be discarded, to become dumpster material, thrown in the barrel and forgotten, abandoned without regret.
So in this moment of extreme abandonment and rejection, Jesus cries out, “Why?” The second part of Psalm 22:1 amplifies the first part: “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Ross translates this as “the words of my roaring” (A Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1, p. 531). The Lion of Judah bellows the pain of God-forsakenness. On the cross, God feels abandoned by God and yells out, “This can’t be right! Father, come back to me!” 
If we follow the psalm beyond the verse Jesus speaks, we gain further insight into Christ’s unique pain. The psalmist recalls how the Israelites, the people of the LORD, had always cried out to God in their suffering, and in time, the LORD had always delivered them. The heart of Israel’s worship is praise because the heart of Israel’s experience is that the LORD is a faithful and mighty deliverer: “In you they trusted and were not put to shame.” God never abandons his people. Thus, the ancient covenant promise “I will be your God and you will be my people” always gave hope (Exodus 6:7, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:28). In times of trouble, the people have continuously drawn upon what the LORD has done in the past to fulfill his eternal promises. 
But now Jesus feels as if in his case the LORD has voided his sacred oath. Jesus experiences eviction from the covenant community, indeed from common humanity: “But I am a worm, not a man.” Jesus cannot expect divine intervention because right now he seems no more a unique image bearer of God than a worm squashed by a plow. The mocking of the crowd confirms his exile to this nonhuman category. Jesus is the scapegoat. He carries the sin, shame, venom and vitriol of everyone else. 
All our experiences of abandonment pour into his dereliction. He takes as his own our most nauseating moments of being discarded. The humiliation when others walked away, the shattered trust of being tossed aside when we yearned for embrace, the shame of being dropped like a lump of burning coal, all of this flows through Jesus’ cry, “My God, my Father, why have you forsaken me?”
When we tap into our own deep, discomforting memories and they begin to flow, we can direct that tearful stream to Jesus on the cross. We can experience empathy for him. In his direst isolation, we can offer him communion. We go to the cross to give our experience to Jesus as a tiny bit of understanding of his forsakenness. We can, in prayer, be discarded with him. We can taste in a new way what Paul means when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ.” And if we brave such an offering, we just may receive an entrée into this mystery for “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Praying with Jesus
Danger! Keep out!
Signs on derelict buildings warn us
To stay away.
Jesus, it’s as if police tape
Made of adamantine
Surrounds your suffering.
Do not cross!
You are alone.
I want to draw near.
Not as much as I want to stay away.
I fear the shaming crowd.
I fear the power of guards.
But most of all I fear the horror
That rises like bile from my stomach
To see one abandoned by God.
The look on your face,
The shock of being discarded,
Dispensed with, spurned,
Guilty of every charge.
You look as if you just realized
Your Father himself
Declared you an enemy,
Even plotted your ruin.
I want to despise you,
To be sure I am not associated
With one so accursed.
Oh, open my eyes to see
That as surely as you are nailed to the beams
You are nailed to the weeping Father’s arms
Which embrace you even though he cannot
Let you feel his fierce love right now.
Receive my pain from when I have been left
As a drop of sympathy from me to you,
A faint kinship in forsakenness
By which I would say, “I’m here”
As you go into that dark hell.


Posted in: Lent