Sunday, May 22, 2011

Father, Into Your Hands I Commend My Spirit

    Psalm 31 In te, Domine, speravi
In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame; *
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me; *
make haste to deliver me.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold; *
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, *
for you are my tower of strength.
Into your hands I commend my spirit, *
for you have redeemed me,
O LORD, O God of truth.
My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me.

The Psalms are part of the core of both Jewish and Christian worship. The Psalms were used in the Temple which stood in Jesus’ time, as well as in the synagogue. Among Christians, the Psalms are the biggest component of the Office, a form of prayer going back to the early centuries of Christian life, and which form the daily liturgical prayer of clergy, religious, and many laity. The first few verses of Psalm 31, our Psalm for this Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, were at one time recited every night as part of Compline, the last prayer of the day, prayed before retiring, in the non-monastic Western Office. Jesus himself quoted from the Psalms often, and perhaps the most striking example of this is the fact that of the seven utterances recorded in the Gospels as being his last words from the Cross, two are quotations from the Psalms, and the last words he cries out before his crucifixion in Luke’s gospel are taken from today’s Psalm – “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

This past week, there has been a lot of talk about Harold Camping’s prediction that the Rapture would occur yesterday, on May 21. This prediction, which was proven false yesterday, was based on a false sense of security using erroneous methods of biblical interpretation. Camping’s followers were certain that they would be taken out of the world, leaving all the unbelievers to face five months of terrible judgment before being annihilated. On the Family Radio website, there is actually a tract claiming that there is “infallible proof” from the Bible that May 21 is the date.

Sociologists tell us that apocalyptic predictions are much more common during times of economic upheaval and uncertainty, so it is not surprising that Camping attracted so many followers. But the view that we can know with absolute certainty that we will be raptured out of this world on a particular date stands in sharp contrast with verse 15 of Psalm 31, “My times are in your hand”. We have no control, ultimately, over what will happen in our lives. Certainly, there is much that we can do that will most likely make our lives better, and many things that will make them worse. But in an instant, our lives can change dramatically, be it through illness, accident, death of a loved one, the actions of loved ones – over whom, let’s face it, we have no control, as much as we might like to pretend otherwise. But the promise of scripture is not that God will miraculously change the circumstances, but that God will be with us no matter what we face.

And this is shown very dramatically in our Lord’s last words from the cross, taken from verse 5 – “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” The night before, Jesus prayed “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”. And the cup was not removed from him, and he was executed on the cross. But to the end, he maintained his trust in God, no matter the circumstances, commending his spirit into the hands of God the Father at the end. And so we are called to do. Not to seek a quick exit from our troubles, not to ignore them, but to trust God to be at our side as we go through them, so that we can pray with Jesus, “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

1 comment:

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