Page last updated



"Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."  (John 12:24)


Sermon Excerpt: Have Mercy On Me, Psalm 51:1-12, Doug in Riverside

 When we who are made in the image and likeness of God turn to God in prayer, our thoughts and emotions and words cover the spectrum between praise and lament. We tend to praise God when things are going well, when we experience “well-being, order, security, and trust in the reliability of God’s good creation” (Hopkins, 1990:16). But when things are not going well, when we find ourselves in a situation of disorientation and distress, our prayers often turn to laments: “Why me, O God? What have I done to deserve this anguish?” Or: “How long, O God? How long will you hide your face from me?”

In her book Journey Through the Psalms – A Path to Wholeness, Denise Dombkowski Hopkins points out that the psalms offer us a “school of prayer”: “The psalms teach us that there are many different kinds of prayer and many different ways of praying to God that articulate the whole range of human emotions: fear, praise, anger, thanksgiving, joy, despair. All of the emotions that mark a person’s struggle for faith from day to day appear in the Psalter. Psalm language grasps for us the many facets of God and our relationship to God, whom we experience as both present and absent” (p. 3). Last week’s psalm was the cry of anguish of a poet lamenting the absence of God in her or his season of disorientation.

The psalmist has done nothing to deserve this suffering, and is complaining in faith to God. God is not so far absent that the psalmist has given up on prayer itself; but the prayer is a lament about undeserved disorientation. By contrast, this week’s psalm, which is one of only seven “penitential laments” in the psalter, gives voice to the psalmist’s “acceptance of suffering as deserved punishment for sin” (p. 57). Tradition assigns this psalm to David as an expression of his deep regret and repentance in the aftermath of his sexual abuse of Bathsheba, the killing of her husband Uriah, and the death of the child conceived when he forced Bathsheba to submit to his advances. This is not what we would call a wholesome or uplifting story . . .

Subscribers: Click here for this sermon and all other resources for Lent 5

Not a subscriber yet? 
Click here to find out.