Good or bad, happy or sad, God takes us as we are.  So, we can be real with God.

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July 26, 2015 – Psalm 69


            A couple of times now this summer, I have shown Youtube videos to the kids during the children’s sermon.  Last month I showed, “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams.  It had lots of people dancing happily around.  Last week, I showed, “Father and daughter,” by Paul Simon, a love song to his daughter, which included scenes from the animated movie, “The Wild Thornberrys.”

            But I chose not to show this video during the children’s sermon.  I know they are still here.  I knew they could still watch, but I thought maybe they would be more likely to ignore the video.

            What’s concerning for children about this song is not that it has sex or violence or bad language.  It is the air of despair.  It is the content that I would not want to show children. 

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real.


            This is a song that talks about hurt.  And because it’s Johnny Cash singing it – not some burned out, middle-aged rock star – it takes on a certain depth, a certain gravitas.  Johnny Cash had his challenges, his difficulties, his personal failings.  But he also had great success, not only as a performer, but also his marriage to June Carter Cash.

Still, he speaks of everything he has lost – especially those closest to him – “You are somewhere else; I am still right here.”  He talks about everything he has gained that now means nothing to him, his “empire of dirt.”  And he talks about his own failings:

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair

            This is not the picture of life that we want our children to see.  It’s not an image that will lead to a happy and productive life.   It’s not even a picture of life that we like to look at very much. 

But it is real.  And that’s why it’s in the Bible.


            There are some Bible stories that we don’t teach in Sunday school.  The testing of Abraham and the infidelity and murder committed by David are the two biggest examples.  Those are stories I do cover in confirmation.  Because I think confirmands need to get a bigger picture of the faith that are promising to remain a part of.

            There are also psalms that we don’t teach in Sunday school.  We actually don’t teach many psalms.  Apart from Psalm 23, I don’t know if we really them at all.  But I do know that, if we taught psalms in Sunday school, Psalm 69 would not be one of them. 

            When I first read this psalm this week, I thought – this could easily be read during Holy Week, on Good Friday.  The gospel of John quotes verse 10 – Zeal for your house shall consume me.  John 15:25 cites verse 5 – They hated me without cause.  Paul quotes the psalm twice in Romans.  All four gospels mention that Jesus was offered sour wine, which is mentioned a bit further on in v. 25.

Perhaps the reason it isn’t used more frequently on Good Friday is that it includes the verse – “O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you.” (v.6)

Still the psalm is a testimony for one who is suffering for his faith and who pleads for help from God.

            We may feel uncomfortable with some of the sentiments of this psalm.  We may not feel as righteous and as faithful to God as this psalm.  We may not be able to see ourselves in this psalm, but we can see Jesus.  We can hear his voice calling out to God in his hour of greatest need.  Jesus did so because, despite his suffering, he trusted God. Despite the cruelty he was experiencing from human hands, he turned to God because he knew God was compassionate.

            And we can turn to God for that very same reason.  When our suffering is great, when we find our troubles are too much to bear, when we feel as though we don’t have a friend in the world, we can turn to God, just as Jesus did.  We can trust God because of what Jesus went through.  Jesus endured the cross in trust to show us how faithful God is, how merciful God is, how compassionate God is.

            Despite how full of despair the song is, Johnny Cash offers a note of redemption.  Intermixed with the scenes of himself and his wife and his long life, there are flashes of Jesus on the cross.  Whatever heartbreak and loss, whatever joy and success he has experience, it is all is redeemed by Jesus – by the sacrificial love of Jesus, by the compassionate love of God.

            And so are we.