22 May 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
22 May 2022 (Psalm 88)

‘O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence’ (Psalm 88: 1) … inside the former church in the underground city of Derinkuyu or Anakou in Cappadocia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Sixth Sunday of Easter (22 May 2022) and Rogation Sunday. Later this morning I hope to attend the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

But, before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections in this season of Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 88:

Psalm 88 is found in Book III in the Book of Psalms, which includes Psalms 73 to 89. In the slightly different numbering scheme in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is psalm is numbered as Psalm 87.

Psalm 88 is one in a group of psalms at the end of Book III within the 150 psalms, from Psalm 84 to Psalm 89. These psalms attempt to provide hope to the exilic Israelite community. But, despite their celebration of the historic traditions of the Jewish people, they remind the reader that these elements no longer provide the hope they once did.

Four psalms of this group – Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88 – are attributed to the Korahites, who are described as the doorkeepers of the tabernacle in the Book of Chronicles.

Psalm 88 is a prayer for mercy and deliverance. According to Professor Martin Marty of the University of Chicago, Psalm 88 is ‘a wintry landscape of unrelieved bleakness.’ In Hebrew, the last word of the psalm is ‘darkness.’

Psalm 88 ends by saying:

You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness
(verse 18)

It is often assumed that the Psalm is a sick Psalm. The disease that has laid low the psalmist could have been leprosy or some other unclean illness. Other commentators see a more general calamity rather than a specific disease.

This psalm stands alone among all the Psalms for the unrelieved gloom and the hopeless sorrow of its tone. Even the very saddest of the others, and the Lamentations themselves, admit some variations of key, some strains of hopefulness. Here all is darkness to the very last verse, the very final word.

‘I am counted among those who go down to the Pit’ (Psalm 88: 4) … an ancient well in the underground city of Derinkuyu or Anakou in Cappadocia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 88 (NRSVA):

A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites. To the leader: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
2 let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.

3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
5 like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
18 You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Mission in Australia.’ It is introduced this morning by Peter Burke, Manager at Mission and Anglican Community Engagement AnglicareSA, who writes:

‘My engagement in God’s Mission emanates from a sense of being loved by God, being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and recognising the gifts of the Holy Spirit in my life.

‘I seek to discern God’s Mission each day God gives me, through various involvements in church and community.

‘This includes Parish involvement in Mission Action Planning in hospitality, pastoral care, liturgy and learning, communications, and partnerships.

‘Through AnglicareSA, I support a small team of people who connect its many community services, aged care, and housing services with the Anglican Community with the care and justice ministries of the church.

‘Through the Anglican Board of Mission, I collaborate with others locally and nationally to support global mission, being mindful to learn from the missional experience of others globally to engage in mission locally.

‘Mission is an act of unity in diversity. It seeks to bring together things separated, disconnected or in conflict, where life in all its fullness is diminished.

‘Mission is an act of community. It involves watching and waiting with others as well as being active; to see what God is doing, to follow where God leads, and reconnect with God’s unconditional love.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (22 May 2022, Easter VI) invites us to pray:

Almighty God,
may we be united in our diversity.
Help us to follow your calling
and to encourage others to do the same.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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