Pastor’s Letter: Jesus’ Last Words
Last month in my pastoral letter “Don’t Leave Any Praise Out,” I wrote about how the whole Psalter praises God, even the songs of lament and sadness. For four weeks beginning June 9, our opening psalm will be just such a lament, Psalm 22:1-12:
My God, my God, O why have You
Forsaken me? O why
Are You so far from giving help
And from my groaning cry?
By day and night, my God, I call;
Your answer still delays.
And yet You are the Holy One
Who dwells in Israel’s praise.
Our fathers put their trust in You;
From You their rescue came.
They begged You and You set them free;
They were not put to shame.
But as for me, I am a worm
And not a man at all.
To men I am despised and base;
Their scornings on me fall.
All those who look at me will laugh
And cast reproach at me.
Their mouths they open wide: they wag
Their heads in mockery.
“The Lord was his reliance once;
Now see what God will send.
Yes, let God rise and set him free,
This man that was His friend.”
You took me from my mother’s womb
To safety at the breast.
Since birth when I was cast on You
In You, my God, I rest.
Be not far off, for grief is near,
And none to help is found;
For bulls of Bashan in their strength
Now circle me around.
I’m sure there are times when all of us can relate to how David felt when he wrote that. As we open our worship with Psalm 22, we remember that we are united in Christ to brothers and sisters around the world who are feeling that way on any given day. Maybe you yourself wake up on Sunday morning feeling abandoned by God, unable to cope, overwhelmed by grief or worry, or else strained and unhappy in your relationships and equally estranged from God. Perhaps there’s bitterness in your heart toward yourself or others that is choking the love.
No matter how we feel, we come to church and lay our joys and our cares at Jesus’ feet in worship every Sunday. The times in life when we feel farthest away from God or feel the least love for him are the times we need him most. We praise him, confess our sins to him, and find refreshment in the promise that he has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. We remind ourselves of all that God has done for us in the past and all that awaits us in the new creation. Sunday is a new beginning! That’s basically what David is doing in Psalm 22: drawing near to God when he feels farthest away from him.
But do you also realize that the opening words to Psalm 22 are the last words of the Lord Jesus as he was dying upon the cross (Matthew 27:46)? He quoted this psalm because he was experiencing the very thing it speaks of as he died and underwent the wrath of God so that we, his people, would never have to. What wonders! As we begin our worship with Psalm 22, we remind ourselves of what Jesus experienced in order to make us part of his people and to allow us to come into the presence of God with a song of thanks and praise on our lips. With the cross in view, what better call to all God’s people to come, sing, worship?
Chapel Chimes is the monthly print and digital newsletter of New Hope Christian Church, Monsey, New York.