Summary: What grace really means
Toward the latter part of the Psalter there is a group of 15 Psalms known as the Psalms of Ascent. Jewish pilgrims sang these 15 Psalms as they made their way to worship in Jerusalem for the three great feasts. The one Psalm I want to focus on this morning from this group is Psalm 130. READ
This was one of Luther’s favorite Psalms. He paraphrased it and set it to music. He said that when he sang this Psalm the very gate of heaven opened up to him.
When Saint Augustine lay dying he had verse 4 hung on the wall at the end of his bed: But with you there is forgiveness therefore you are to be feared. This Psalm is not only part of the Psalms of Ascent it is also the sixth of seven Penitential Psalms.
There are seven Psalms in the Bible that were written – probably by David after committing adultery with Bathsheba – that are known as the Penitential Psalms. Well, Psalm 130 is one of those Psalms.
And it begins in the depths of despair. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
I recently watched a woman fall into the depths. My wife and I became grandparents for the first time in September. So naturally, we made the trip to Fort McMurray to see our Daughter, our son-in-law and our precious little granddaughter.
If you’ve ever been to Fort McMurray you know that there isn’t much between Edmonton and Fort McMurray. Rather desolate country. So on the long drive back we stopped off for lunch in Boyle. To be honest, before this trip I did not know there was such a place as Boyle, Alberta.
The only Café in town was called Hooters. I should have known right then that this wasn’t going to be the highlight of our trip north. So we sat down – push the ashtray and the dirty serviette aside and waited. Within a minute a woman around 35 going on 60 came and asked if we would like coffee and passed us two menus.
We ordered. I was sitting so I could keep one eye on the kitchen and one eye on Muriel. Of course, the new grandmother, Muriel, was waxing on and on about how wonderful baby Naomi was and how she was just about the best infant she had ever seen. I was listening, sort of, but my attention was drawn away by what I could see and hear coming from the kitchen. The head cook was scolding our waitress for something. She returned with our food. Then as I dipped my veal cutlet into the gravy there were more strong words between the boss and the waitress. And it was over. She quit. Or was fired. Right on the spot. Right in the middle of our meal.
I could see for just a moment the pain in her face; in her body language. And then she was gone and I turned back to Muriel and the talk about the greatest granddaughter in the world. But I still can’t get that waitress out of my mind. I can feel her pain from the depths. A person who had gone from job to job; from relationship to relationship. And found herself in the pit of despair once more.
There isn’t a person here this morning who hasn’t been in the pit at some time or another in life. Like Hannah in our Old Testament lesson this morning we come to a place of great anguish and grief. It may be the depths of sorrow, the depths of illness, the depths of failure, the depths of a broken relationship, the depths of financial loss, the depths of disappointment. And then comes the hopelessness, despair, depression that overwhelm us in the pit.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this service Friday morning I got a phone call from a friend: one of his co-workers was talking about suicide would I come and talk to him. I met the young man at a coffee shop later that morning. We talked. His ex-live in girl friend had taken off with their child. He was in the pit of despair. He felt he had no reason to live.
The thing that put the writer of Psalm 130 in the Pit of Despair was sin. There is no greatest hole then the one we dig by our own sin. It has been said that “sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you are willing to stay; and cost you more than you are willing to pay.”
There are certain things we don’t want others to know about us: Things in our past that we are not proud of.
They are buried in the depths of our being. From our depths we cry out. It could be some loss that makes us cry – but usually it is the loss of relationship with God that really makes us cry. When we come to the depths we cry out to the Lord.