Faith & Worship: In spite of dangers, God is always present

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2018

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? (Psalm 22:1)”

My friends Ben Davis and Dick Callaway are fond of saying that I know more stuff about impractical and unimportant things than one man should ever know, and that it’s a miracle I can get up in the morning and do something practical at all.

While I don’t dispute their claims, I do think there is an intrinsic value in knowing something just for the sake of knowing it.

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As human beings, we are curious and desirous of knowing things. In fact, our Latin name, homo sapiens, means “wise human.”

Now, I’m not saying that I’m wise or any of the people you know are wise, but I love learning and knowing things. Knowing things gives me a sense of power and mastery over the seemingly chaotic and malevolent forces of the world around me. If I just read one more book or one more article, I’ll be able to keep the forces of darkness, ignorance and despair away from me.

St. Paul addresses this very point in his First Letter to the Corinthians when he says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified. (1 Cor. 1:22-23)” It is always tempting for me to think that I can think my way to God or understand God through lots of words and human wisdom.

I know that God’s wisdom involves things that I cannot understand with my head. My own thoughts fall short of God and do God a horrible disservice. The words from Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are the words that Jesus utters from the cross in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. Jesus seems to be crying out in anguish to a God who has abandoned him in his greatest hour of need.

Indeed, Greeks would say that there is nothing but violence and destruction in Jesus’ death on the cross. They would say, “Why look there for God’s wisdom? Jesus is right to call out in despair for a God who is not there.”

The Jews would also laugh at the cross, and say that it is a sign of nothing more than the world’s shame and sin.

If you take Jesus’ words in isolation from the rest of Psalm 22, you can believe that Jesus is crying out in despair to an absentee God; however, Psalm 22 is really a psalm about God being present in the midst of our earthly troubles.

Many horrible things can happen to us in this earthly journey. We can be beset by the strong bulls of Bashan, the ravening and roaring lion, packs of wild dogs, gangs of evildoers, and even the more mundane things like cancer, old age and depression. All around us are signs that we are being swallowed up in darkness and death, but Psalm 22 says that, in spite of all these signs, God is present and God is saving us. The words of Jesus from the cross are the words of a man who knows that God is with him on the cross and that God is with all of humanity while he hangs on the cross.

I would love to read my way to salvation, know my way to salvation or think my way to salvation, but Jesus is calling us with Psalm 22 to the foot of the cross so that we might see, hear and receive the saving grace of God from a savior who is ever mindful of God’s abiding presence and love.

“They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done. (Psalm 22:30)”

Father Robert Ard, Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross