This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Assurance of God’s Protection
To the leader: with stringed instruments. Of David.
1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I;
3 for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me abide in your tent for ever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings. Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
As in yesterday’s psalm the image of shelter under God’s wings is used here. But today it’s another image that captures my imagination: “lead me to the rock that is higher than I”. This is a psalm composed, as it were, for the king, the ruler of Israel, as well as for Israel herself. The King is the highest in the land, with absolute power over his people. Yet, menaced by an enemy he prays to be led to the rock that is higher than himself. He may be expected to be a rock for his people, the leader who brings victory, yet he recognises that there is only one place of ultimate safety: the faithfulness of God. Both the pride and the vulnerability of power are confronted by the image of God’s overarching care for the King and his people. We might hope that the highest in our societies would use this prayer in good times and bad.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;*36then they sat down there and kept watch over him.37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’
38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.39Those who passed by derided* him, shaking their heads40and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,42‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.* He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
This is the heart of Christian faith: the crucified son of God. Here is what Paul calls the “the weakness and the folly of God.” There are many traditional interpretations of this event, but all are agreed that it reveals the stubborn arrogance of human evil: this is what we do with goodness; and it reveals a God who chooses to persuade by love rather than to conquer by might. There is terror in these revelations. Human evil is just that: not a mistake, not a weakness but a decision to hurt others. God’s love in Jesus is wonderful but it too demands a human decision: God will not forgive us in spite of ourselves. Love requires a response. When we think of the image of the crucified God as “the rock that is higher than I”, we are compelled to think of the rock as split open. When we do, we may remember that the hymn writer has been here before us:
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me/ let me hide myself in thee.”