(Black) Friday Psalms

No, this is not another grouse about consumerism.

Just a thought that asserts itself from time to time when I offer the Friday Psalms.

Christian readings assign Psalms of penitence and lament on Fridays, to evoke the crucifixion and move faithful hearts to worship Jesus, who died on a very dark Friday.  These often contain complaints of weakness in the face of violence and injustice.

For example, the Book of Common Prayer assigns Psalm 142 this morning, which includes

Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; save me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. (Verse 6)

The Liturgy of the Hours includes portions of Psalm 59,

They have set an ambush for my life; the powerful conspire against me.  For no offense or misdeed of mine, LORD… (Verse 4)

Now my recurring thought is this: we make a mistake if we reduce Jesus to a good man who suffered a painful death.  Roman scourging and crucifixion were terrible, but lots of other people suffered the same.  And we all know people who’ve endured years of some ghastly ailment and the ravages of the treatments used to combat it.  Many if not most of them would strike us as “good,” even if imperfect.

In other words, Jesus’ physical ordeal was not as bad as what millions (billions?) of other flesh and blood bodies have suffered.

Devotion to the suffering of Jesus makes sense only if he is who the church says he is, and what the Friday Psalms reflect: the victim of the greatest injustice of all time.  The Creator submitting to the cruelty of a rebellious creation to save it from its own evil madness. 

That’s worthy of worship.


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