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Stephanie’s Sermon on Psalm 13

Stephanie Gannon, a Master of Divinity student at Union Seminary and a congregant at St. Lydia’s, delivered this sermon at St. Lydia’s on September 29 and 30, 2013. You can read the full text of her sermon on her blog, onefierceheart.

Psalm 13:  The Journey from Sorrow to Song

A few weeks ago, in the first session of a class I’m taking at Union on Aggression, the professor, Dr. Ann Ulanov, posed the questions, “Where is anger in your prayer life? What form does aggression take in your church’s liturgy?”  My response was, “Huh??  Like nowhere.  Aggression doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) exist in those places. My spiritual life is calm, gentle, and peaceful (just like me!).”  Raised Irish Catholic , I wasn’t taught to talk back to God. I was an obedient, good girl who didn’t even know that was possible.

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Psalm 13 is a dialogue with God that’s direct and confrontational. When I chose this psalm, I was struck by the emphatic nature of the refrain, “How long?”   With every new repetition on those words in the opening lines of the psalmist’s lament, we hear and feel increasing urgency. Hey God, have you forgotten me? Why do you keep ignoring me?  How much longer must I endure this pain that seems to have no end? Yoohoo!! Are you listening??  The second verse—How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?— really sounds like the blues.

Psalm 13 is typical of the lament psalms in its form and tone. It taps deep into the currents of the Israelites’ suffering in the hands of their oppressors.  What’s it like to call out in pain but not feel heard, let alone responded to??  We might think of Job, who faces just this dilemma, this aggressive silence on God’s part. Of course God does reply to him, but refuses to answer his questions…

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In the late spring and early summer of 1999, we learned that my dad was very sick. I rushed home to Maryland in late June from Heidelberg, Germany, where I was visiting my boyfriend and good friends.

I spent the next three weeks–his last–nursing him every day and helping my mother navigate the many phone calls and visitors. Taking care of him was hard work, and his situation was quickly deteriorating. Still we held out hope that the chemo would work. I did everything I could to make him comfortable—brought him his favorite donuts and crabcakes (none of which he could eat), set up the VCR with his favorite Westerns and Laurel & Hardy movies, rolled him over on his side to rub his back to help ease the pain his bed sores caused. He told me some stories about growing up on the Eastern Shore, and we laughed like old times whenever we could. Sadly I didn’t have the final heart-to-heart talk I’d wanted us to have. As I retell this, so many memories flood back…

You can read the full text of Stephanie’s sermon on her blog, onefierceheart.

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