OK, you know me. I like a laugh as much as the next guy. Maybe more, depending on who the next guy is. I enjoy a joke, a funny story, a blatant irony. I do, I really do. But this snowing on Saturday thing is starting to get to me. I know, it will probably be gone before nightfall, but still. It’s just the idea of it, the sheer repetitive annoyance that is wearing me down.
Comparatively speaking, no big deal. Especially now that we are into spring. The snow won’t last, the danger will be fleeting. Sunshine is on the way, sixty degrees come Monday, they tell us. And even if they are wrong this time, it won’t be long. You can count on it. Sure as sunrise.
Sure as sunrise. There aren’t many things more certain than that. Even when you can’t see it, you know it is there. And sometimes the knowing is all you need.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
"I shall never be moved."
7 By your favor, O LORD,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cried,
and to the LORD I made supplication:
9 "What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me!
O LORD, be my helper!"
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
OK, I put it in there that way to remind us that the Psalm is a poem. Or a song. It is a work of art expressing a multitude of emotions that range from the highest of highs to disturbingly low lows. Which seems to be the human condition, and least this human anyway.
First of all there is that joy that caused me to select this Psalm for our Lenten reflections. We are walking through the Fruit of the Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians for all of 2014. And this Lent we are considering the incongruity of Joy in the midst of our penitence. Or, as Evelyn Underhill names it, Joy on the Night Shift.
Psalm 30 gives us two takes on joy, it seems to me. There is the joy that is equated with dancing in verse eleven. The antithesis of mourning and repentance. Once the sackcloth comes off, once the mourning is done, then there is joy. Transformation, redemption.
The other joy reference sounds different to my ears. “Weeping my linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Similar to verse eleven, but different, perhaps. In the later verse it seems a done deal, the joy has come and we only look back on the sackcloth, we are dancing and we look back on the mourning. But the earlier reference seems like we are still waiting. Joy comes, not joy is here in this morning light. It may be night time word, a darkness hope - confident, but still a hope. A sustaining hope to be sure. A light in that dark night by which to navigate. The promise of joy sustains.
But how do we hold onto that hope? How do we have confidence in joy, even in the midst of struggle? Well, the psalmist tells us, not by our own strength. Certainly we have those moments, we are on the top of the world, when all is going our way, when prosperity is the order of the day. But despite our claim that this is they way it will always be, that we shall not be moved from this lofty position, movement is always in our future. When we push God away, God is gracious enough to go. And then we fall from the perch of security we have erected for ourselves.
How do we hold on to hope? Not by bargaining, not by telling God how much God needs us. “Will the dust praise you?” Well, Jesus told those who thought his supporters were making too much noise on that first Palm Sunday that even if these were silent, the stones would cry out. So, I guess the answer is yes, the dust can praise. As difficult as it is for us to comprehend, God doesn’t need us. Creation can praise, the heavenly host can serve. God doesn’t need us. Which makes the fact that God wants us - to praise, to serve, to love - all that much more incredible.
So, how do we hold onto hope? How do we reach for joy even in the darkest night when our eyes are full of tears? Well, our over emotional psalmist gives us a hint. When the writer moves from looking inward to looking outward, then we find a clue about how to navigate through the darkness. When the text moves from me and I to us we are on to something. “Sing praises to God’s name, O you faithful ones, and give thanks to His name.” Gratitude. That is the key to holding on to hope. Because gratitude takes vision, takes the ability to see beyond your self and your own circumstance. It takes the ability to recognize the interconnectedness of the world in which we live. How we are woven together in a glorious whole, dependent upon one another and upon the one who gives us life.
Let it snow. That’s my interpretation of Psalm 30. Let it snow. Because spring is coming. The sun will shine. Even though I can’t see it or feel it right now. I know it. Even though I walk in darkness, I can find my way because I know the light.