By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.
Lord, hear my prayer!
Let my cry reach you!
2 Don’t hide your face from me
in my time of trouble!
Listen to me!
Answer me quickly as I cry out!
3 Because my days disappear like smoke,
my bones are burned up as if in an oven;
4 my heart is smashed like dried-up grass.
I even forget to eat my food
5 because of my intense groans.
My bones are protruding from my skin.
6 I’m like some wild owl—
like some screech owl in the desert.
7 I lie awake all night.
I’m all alone like a bird on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies make fun of me;
those who mock me curse using my name!
9 I’ve been eating ashes instead of bread.
I’ve been mixing tears into my drinks
10 because of your anger and wrath,
because you picked me up and threw me away.
11 My days are like a shadow soon gone.
I’m dried up like dead grass.
12 But you, Lord, rule forever!
Your fame lasts from one generation to the next!
13 You will stand up—
you’ll have compassion on Zion
because it is time to have mercy on her—
the time set for that has now come!
14 Your servants cherish Zion’s stones;
they show mercy even to her dirt.
15 The nations will honor the Lord’s name;
all the earth’s rulers will honor your glory
16 because the Lord will rebuild Zion;
he will be seen there in his glory.
17 God will turn to the prayer of the impoverished;
he won’t despise their prayers.
Psalm 102, Common English Bible
Psalm 102 was probably written at the end of the Jewish exile, a time when the people were preparing to return to Jerusalem. They were tired and sick. The Psalmist cries out to God for help. He describes himself as skin and bones, weary, eating ashes with his food and his tears are mixed in his drinks. He can’t sleep or eat, he is lonely like a bird alone on the roof, like an owl in the desert. His days disappear like smoke.
This seems to mirror how many people feel during this pandemic, I think. People are worried, they can’t sleep, they are lonely. We’re tired of all of this. And so, we cry out to God, just as the Psalmist called God.
He also spoke of his enemies mocking him and cursing him. When I read that, I thought of the protesters making their way to statehouses with their weapons and posters cursing the governors who won’t open their state’s businesses.
The Psalm switches from an individual prayer to one for the whole nation. We know that we can’t recover ourselves until the whole nation is recovering and for us the whole world!
In verse 12, the Psalmist remembers that God is Lord and rules forever. God will have compassion on Zion, because it is time to show mercy. He trusts that the Lord will rebuild Zion, and be seen in God’s glory. God will hear the prayers of the poor and will not despise their plea.
We also trust that God will hear our pleas. In Massachusetts, we are beginning to see the decline in hospitalizations and new cases of the virus now. We are praying that we can begin to reopen carefully in the next few weeks. We trust that God is with us and has been walking with us through the worst of the pandemic and that God will continue to walk with us over the next weeks as we try to recover. We believe God has been with the sick and the dying and their families. We believe that God will help those whose businesses have been decimated and we pray for a time when we can gather together again in God’s presence.
Remember, Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Hold on to Jesus’ promise, and to God’s compassion and love for all humankind as we move forward.
A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet
By Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, Resident Bishop of the New England Annual Conference
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
John 14:15-21, New Revised Standard Version
“Growing up in India, I saw orphaned children daily. I saw first hand the sadness, the longing, and the experience of abandonment.That vivd childhood memory comes back to me when I read the promise, ‘I will not leave you orphaned.'” — Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar.
We stand in the midst of
sickness, death, and grief;
we see people
without jobs, standing in mile-long food lines;
we witness the unjust distribution
of resources and racial discrimination,
we watch health care providers
exhausted and overwhelmed
farmers with no market for their crops
we wonder …
have they, have we, been abandoned?
Jesus promised …
that we would not be orphaned*
that you would send your Spirit
that, because he lives, we shall live
that you are not gone from us
that we have not been deserted
that you abide with us,
and in us.
O God our Help, hear our prayer —
to love you
to keep your great commandment to love others
to know you revealed through our loving acts
to see you —
here and now
with us and in us,
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.