Excerpted from Power Made Perfect in Weakness, a Lenten Guide for Lectionary Year A from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
On the 5th Sunday in Lent, 2020, we are living out a time when many of us are crying out from the depths. Today, our personal lives, our communities, our state, our nation, and even our world are being upended by the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus. People of faith, and I dare say, some who don’t normally proclaim faith, are asking God to hear our supplications. Fear and anxiety are present in our homes and in our communities. For the first time in my lifetime, non-essential businesses are shuttered. Schools are empty. The usual grind of 5-o’clock traffic is almost non-existent. Grocery store shelves are bare, and even most church doors are closed for in-person worship. In most states, people are being asked to shelter at home and avoid physical contact. A comment I’ve heard recently seems to resonate with those who have only read about the global impact of World War II, “I wonder if this is how it felt.”
How can this be preparation for Easter, my favorite time of the year. While growing up, I often heard hope-filled hymns in our home and our church family came together in our Sunday best, (sometimes new) clothing. We enthusiastically worshipped together as we celebrated the resurrection of Christ. Spring was in the air, flowers were popping up, children enjoyed treats from brightly colored Easter baskets, and families sat down together for a home-cooked meal. What meaning can we take away from this dichotomy in the season of Lent 2020 and today?
Maybe some answers are found thinking about the theme of this year’s Lenten guide “Power Made Perfect in Weakness.” This theme was chosen months ago with no knowledge of what was to come with the virus now threatening our health and livelihoods. It was chosen to lift up the powerful impact God’s people can make in a world ruled by the wealth, title, and privilege that are often mistaken for power. In the richest country on the planet, we are fighting over whether everyone deserves healthcare, we have entire families sleeping in their cars or on the streets, and millions of people go to bed each night hungry. For many, this Lenten season isn’t really so different. Marginalized groups in our society have been crying out in supplication for decades.
Psalm 130 is one of the most straightforward and direct of all the richly worded psalms. When we are crying out from the depths, whether as individuals or in community, God hears our supplications whether we believe we are worthy or not. God’s word gives hope and the promise of mercy.
On this 5th Sunday of Lent, let us examine what it means to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. While we wait out this current crisis in ways that are very different for so many of us, let us embrace the power made perfect by this example. True power comes in the form of kindness, compassion, sharing, and in sacrifice.
Lord, hear our prayer. Whether we come to you as a supplicant new to this level of fear and confusion, or whether we have been struggling through the depths for some time, may we hear your voice and receive your peace. For those of us who are able, may we follow your example and live into your commands to care for each other as you care for us.