Friday, March 30, 2012

He did not hide his face from me

Russian icon of Jesus, undated
The Daily Office lectionary readings this week are full of foreboding as Jesus and his disciples walk to Jerusalem, where he will be crucified a week from today.

The Way of the Cross has begun. Biblical scholars will tell you that these events compressed into a week of lectionary readings probably took about six months, but no matter.

Today in Mark 10:32-45 we hear James and John telling Jesus that they would like to "sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." To our ears it sounds like an arrogant request, and the gospel writer tells us that the other disciples are quite angry when they hear about it.

There might be another way to hear this: James and John are saying that they are willing to die with Jesus and that they will go with him to the grave and beyond. They are declaring their willingness to give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Maybe the other disciples are angry because they are not so willing to die. Who can blame them?

And Jesus tells them it is not their turn. He wants them to live, to spread the Gospel, to declare to all who will listen that they are the Beloved and that grace will be their guide. Your turn will come, but not this week, so don't argue about it.

Today's psalm gives another clue to their mission. Today we hear the very haunting Psalm 22 that begins with the familiar, and depressing line, that Jesus says upon the Cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Yet there is more to the psalm, much more. When we hear Jesus saying those words on the Cross, we are meant to hear all of the psalm. Here the last words of the psalm:
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!

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