Psalm 31:9-18

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Do not let me be put to shame, O Lord, for I call on you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go dumbfounded to Sheol. Let the lying lips be stilled that speak insolently against the righteous with pride and contempt. Psalm 31:9-18

Last night I spoke at a memorial service for the brother of a friend who has become part of the Faith Lutheran community. It was a different kind of memorial service and, as I prepared for my part, I found myself choosing a Bible reading that I have never used before. And as I spoke, I said some things that I have never said before at such a service.

There are two things that I have always heard people say about funerals. People appreciate when funerals are very personal. And people can sense a difference if the pastor really knows, or seems to know, the person around which everyone has gathered.

I can appreciate those thoughts and I don’t disparage them. However, regardless of how personal we attempt to make memorial services, the reality is that death is the great equalizer. Death shows no preference for gender, class, race, religion, region, or any of the other humanly created illusions of difference. As a Christian I can only believe that when anyone dies, anywhere, I have lost a brother or a sister and I trust that God has prepared a place for us to meet again. A place without tears in eyes or tears in the fabric of God’s beautiful creation.

As for “knowing the person”, I get that. It is one of the most emotionally wrenching aspects of my job. I can’t win at that one. Sometimes it is hard to contain my own grief, either because of my relationship with the person who died or my love for those left behind. And when I don’t know anyone in the room, let’s say the funeral home just called looking for someone to help a family because “they think their loved one used to be Lutheran or something at some time”, I feel a different sort of pain. It hurts to know that a funeral is just a moment in time – that real grief is a community endeavor and I know that the conversation that needs to happen might not happen as this might be my only time to be with that particular family before everyone goes their separate ways.

So last night I talked about how much more important it is, not that I know the man who we have gathered to remember, but that God knows him. Not only do I believe God knows him, I believe God knows him far better than any of you knows him, better even that he knew himself. And that God loves him, not for HOW he was, but for WHO he was. Another broken, sinful, beautiful, complex, work of human art wrought by the loving creative hands of the Author of the Universe.

So no, I didn’t know the people we are praying for this week. The police officers and the men whose lives were taken far too cruelly and far too soon. I don’t know their families, their children, and their friends. But God does and they are my brothers and sisters.

The great equalizer has reminded us all again that life on this planet does not last forever. So how will we use this time, so often marked by a sense that “my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.”?

Could we do any better than speaking the truth in love? In seeking first to understand rather than be understood? In asking for the grace to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, in forgiving others and in that in finding ourselves forgiven? Is there a better, more hopeful, way to live than that?

Rest in peace, my sisters and brothers. And the rest of us? Could we do better than loving God and loving our neighbor?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, today we pray for wisdom and discernment, for truth and integrity, for hope and for hopefulness. We pray that the lost not be forgotten and that our hearts not turn to stone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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9 Responses to “Psalm 31:9-18”

  1. Brian_Taylor@oxy.com Says:

    Pastor Kerry, Awesome job !! You have a unique perspective on these services, and what you’ve shared is very eye opening. I hope you have fun tomorrow at Texaco.

    Thank You,

    Brian

  2. Sharon Says:

    God’s timing, as always, perfect. I read this, this morning sitting with my life partner, in his mother’s hospital room. Her beliefs, I do not know. Only the painful, desolate childhood she gave to the man I love. My prayers are lifted that God, knowing her true soul, opens His arms to welcome her home.
    Prayers please for Jimmy and all his siblings.
    God be with you this day, keeping you safe in His love.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Again this devotion was timely for me. My ailing sister passed away this week. discussion of service in a church to which she belonged but because of health did not physically attend left her without really being known. This devotion I will pass on to relatives and her few acquaintances. God touched us in his word this day. Thank You

  4. Kara Says:

    So glad you are back this week

  5. kirk Says:

    A Men

  6. Carolee Says:

    Rev. Kerry, I appreciate your attitude of acceptance toward people you do not know but acknowledge in love and prayer. We all are God’s children worthy of His love through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Another reminder found in Mark 12: 30-31:

    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
    There is no commandment greater than these.”

  7. Joyce Says:

    Amen. And thank you.

  8. Dany Says:

    / Thank you my fellow Christian Texans. We need to stand up and fight against these barbarians. The attacks of Christianity should not be allowed to continue. Eventually everyone will have freedom of speech except those who don't hold &qoll;potiticauly correct words" in other words liberal. The great hypocrisy of the left, they make you believe everyone is everyone not just the liberals.

  9. dawn cardwell Says:

    Who is the author of this verse 31:9-18

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