Seven Psalms: A meditation for Good Friday

Psalm 55:13-14 If it had been an adversary who taunted me, then I could have borne it; or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me, then I could have hidden from him. But it was you, a man after my own heart, my companion, my own familiar friend.

Betrayal. The betrayal of a friend, of a close companion, a trusted colleague. The raw wound of trust ripped open and torn away. Judas, and then Peter. One,knowing only too well what he was about, betrayed him with a kiss; the other with his head turned away, his eyes cast down, denying that he ever knew him. Jesus bore the burden of them, bore the burden for them.

Psalm 35:14 I prayed with my whole heart, as one would for a friend or a brother; I behaved like one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and grieving.

Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother. The pain of parting, the ruin of relationships, the fracturing of family. Mary, his mother, and the disciple whom he loved, a new kind of family formed out of loss, the clinging together of shipwreck survivors cast adrift, and the captain lashed to the mast, sinking with his vessel, mourning the loss of those placed in his care, giving up his life vest to his mother, his last breath to his friend.

Psalm 58:1-2 Do you indeed decree righteousness, you rulers? do you judge the people’s with equity? No; you devise evil in your hearts, and your hands deal out violence in the land.

They put a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe around his shoulders. They wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”, and when the people said, “He is not our king,” Pilate replied, “I have written what I have written,” because what is truth anyway? What is it to Pilate that Jesus is the true king, the truth, the life of all people? Pilate is, for the moment, the one with the power of the sword in his hand, and he counts it as real and authentic authority, because he doesn’t know and has to ask, “What is truth?” Jesus knows the helplessness of those without power, without mercy, and the redeeming help of God.

Psalm 22:17 They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.

Since Adam and Eve and their fabric woven of leaves our nakedness has been our shame. They tried to visit upon Jesus the guilt of an innocent body violated, the shame of one used and abused, to leave him nowhere to hide his dignity.

Psalm 143:6-7 I spread out my hands to you; my soul gasps to you like a thirsty land. O Lord, make haste to answer me; my spirit fails me; do not hide your face from me or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.

Thirst. Bodily drought, the gasping for air of an asthmatic child in the night, the hunger of the refugee, the desert of despair when hope is spent and the well of it is dry. Hands spread wide in supplication, in resignation, imagining fingertips touching skin, another, a friend, a lover, a mother, a comforter, an angel.

Psalm 13:1 How long, O Lord? will you forget me for ever? how long will you hide your face from me?

A child lost in supermarket aisles as tall as skyscrapers, impenetrable as lead. The moment of awakening before the empty space in the bed has cooled reality and pricked grief again. The slow diminuendo of memories accumulated over the years and now swept aside, broken and fragmented, crumbs out of order. The empty womb, the ones never born, the ones given up, the ones who left and slammed the door behind them. Abandonment. The loneliness of a cross high above the hillside but not yet reaching heaven.

Psalm 11:1-2 In the Lord have I taken refuge; how then can you say to me, “Fly away like a bird to the hilltop; For see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string to shoot from ambush at the true of heart.”

High enough above the hillside to see beyond horizons of time, space: Auschwitz, the crusades, Newtown, the writing on a bathroom wall, treachery and treason, the slaughter of the innocents. Is there anything left? Anything missed or fallen from the cross of Christ? Is there any pain or sin or shame that Jesus would not bear for us; purge for us in the fire of his own agony; take to his grave for us? I do not think so. I think that his work was complete, his sacrifice divine, God’s mercy all-embracing.

Psalm 31:5 Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.

You have redeemed me.


About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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