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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 27

You Put Me in the Depths
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 88:1-9  
?O LORD, God of my salvation,
   I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
   incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles,
   and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
   I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
   in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
   and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
You have caused my companions to shun me;
   you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
   my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
   I spread out my hands to you.
What Is This Psalm About?   
This is the only lament that does not include some expression of rescue. In this psalm, there is no hope of future deliverance, no praise for expected salvation. It expresses the utmost desolation. And ends in despair. For centuries, this psalm was just waiting to express Jesus’ experience on Holy Saturday.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
Jesus knew early on that he would be executed (Mark 8:31). As he read and prayed the Psalms, perhaps Psalm 88 prepared him for what lay ahead. In the song, death draws so near that the singers explore what comes after life on the earth. A grim image appears: a body sloughed into a grave, of no further use to the living. But worse, the psalm imagines that in the underworld realm of Sheol, the dead are forgotten not only by people but by God himself. The dead are cut off. Only the awareness of God’s wrath against sin remains. They feel the weight of God’s disfavor having reached the grim destination to which all sin leads—death. A man drawing near to such a fate gets the stench of death about him. He becomes a very horror to his companions. Hopeless, he sees little else but this dim, lonely fate. 
Praying such a psalm, Jesus realizes what lies ahead for a man who will die under condemnation and curse. He gets fair warning of the tortuous road ahead. Perhaps knowing that took some of the surprise out of his passion so he could begin to master the fear that would come. With the Psalms as his prayerbook, Jesus goes fully aware to the cross.
Upon death, Jesus experiences what all human beings experience. The unity of body and soul breaks, and the spirit leaves the body and enters the realm of the dead. The Bible’s descriptions of Sheol are poetic, describing in graphic metaphors what is beyond knowing right now. It’s not clear how much consciousness Jesus has about Sheol on that black Sabbath of Holy Saturday. Can he pray? Or is he just suspended, waiting with or without hope? Psalm 143 grimly states, “The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.” We can’t know for sure what occurred in Sheol, but I believe it’s important that we not move too quickly to Easter joy. This interval between the cross and resurrection occurs for a reason.
German theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar imagines, with fear and trembling, Jesus’ dereliction:
What you suffer is a shapeless fear. It is a sea of fear without shores, fear-in-itself. The fear which is the core of sin. The fear of God and his inescapable judgment. The fear of hell. The fear of never again seeing the face of the Father for all eternity. The fear that love itself and every creature with it have dropped you irretrievably into the abyss. You fall into the bottomless; you are lost. Not the faintest shimmer of hope delimits this fear. For in what could you still have hope? That the Father might still pardon you? He will not, cannot, does not want to do it. Only for the price of your sacrifice does he intend to pardon the world, not you. . . .
“Father,” you cry out, “if it is possible. . . .” But now it is not even possible. Every fragment and shred of possibility has disappeared. You cry into the void: “Father!” And the echo resounds. The Father has heard nothing. You have sunk too low into the depths. . . . The Father has gone over to your enemies. . . . Are you sure that he still really exists? Is there a God? Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Heart of the World, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1980), 109-110.
The events of the cross and sojourn in Sheol are not just religious business transactions. The faith required of Jesus to commit himself to his Father at the last is not born of some easy sense that the end of the play was already a given. He is not merely acting out a character whose role did not touch his real being. His faith rises through the excruciating pain of true flesh and the shattered soul of a real man.
Praying with Jesus
Jesus, you went to the silent place,
To the dark abyss where no light comes.
You went and waited.
Did you expect release?
Or did you feel only defeat?
Any moment in that realm
Would feel like an eternity.
So lonely for you!
So cold, so suffocating,
So deafening a silence,
So far from anything.
Did you remember life?
Could you express trust?
There is so much I don’t know.
But I speculate in order not to miss
Feeling a bit of what you felt,
Drawing near to you there,
To realize with a shudder
What I do not have to face alone.
I do not go into the night of death
Without a light.
For you took midnight
And gave me dawn.


Posted in: Lent