By Annette Brownlee
A Reading from Psalm 41
1 Happy are they who consider the poor and needy!
the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.
2 The Lord preserves them and keeps them alive, so that they may be happy in the land;
he does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.
3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and ministers to them in their illness.
4 I said, “Lord, be merciful to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
5 My enemies are saying wicked things about me:
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 Even if they come to see me, they speak empty words;
their heart collects false rumors; they go outside and spread them.
7 All my enemies whisper together about me
and devise evil against me.
8 “A deadly thing,” they say, “has fastened on him;
he has taken to his bed and will never get up again.”
9 Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me,
has lifted up his heel and turned against me.
10 But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up,
and I shall repay them.
11 By this I know you are pleased with me,
that my enemy does not triumph over me.
12 In my integrity you hold me fast,
and shall set me before your face forever.
13 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
from age to age. Amen. Amen
Psalm 41 begins and ends with a declaration of trust in God’s provision. The psalmist summarizes God’s provision in these words: “my enemy does not triumph over me” (v. 11). This is a psalm about holding fast to what God provides when enemies attack us, the Church, our families, or our nations.
Who are these enemies whom God will not allow to triumph? Most of their evil ways seem to lie in using false, hurtful words and spreading rumors. His enemies say wicked things about him. They speak empty words; they whisper together. When will he perish? They want him dead.
Then, in verse 9, there is an evil both less specific and more intimate than evil words: “Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me, has lifted up his heel and turned against me.” These words have been on the lips of so many. Spouses, parents, our close friends, and children. My husband left me for another woman. I just found out my wife is having an affair. I told my mother about the abuse and she did nothing. And so many more.
These words are also on the lips of Jesus, who was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. And because these words have become Christ’s own, we can also hold onto hope that God will not let our enemies prevail. The righting of the world — families, the Church, nations — is all for us, God’s children. “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Here is a psalm to share in pastoral situations of unbearable trauma. To read to and with those who have been betrayed by those closest to them. Jesus has taken their betrayal into his own flesh and onto his very lips. Evil will never have the last word. The last word belongs to our praise of God.
The Rev. Dr. Annette Brownlee is chaplain, director of field education, and professor of pastoral theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto. She also assists and preaches at St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux in Scarborough.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Nevada
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, River Hills, Wisconsin