Psalm 81: Through the Storm

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

March 12, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 81, another call to listen to God’s Word in order to find the fullness of life:

If only my people would hear me,
    and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would fill them.


But honestly, isn’t it hard to listen sometimes. Even the psalm suggests that there are such loud, distracting events in our lives that we sometimes can’t hear that Word:

In distress you called, and I rescued you.
 Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
    O Israel, will you not hear me?


The psalm shows us that God’s deepest Word
comes to us in thunder, in storm.
It is a truth Jesus embraced on Calvary.
It is a truth our lives will sometimes require of us.


This morning my prayer is filled with thoughts of my friend whose young daughter died last week. When even I, who never met Emily, can feel the overwhelming sadness of her untimely death, what unbearable storm must surround her parents! How can they hear the word of faith in the tumult?


Many years ago, I attended an evening event on the other side of my state. During the ceremony, a tornado touched down very nearby. After several frightening hours, I was able to travel back to my hotel, about five miles away.

But the roads were blocked with debris. The streets lights and signs had been blown down. And I was completely unfamiliar with the vicinity. I did eventually make it “home” to the hotel, but it wasn’t the same as I had left it. Part of the roof lay across the street. The window in my room had been fractured and boarded up.

For me, the memory is a parable about suffering. When the storm comes, we may pass through it, but we are not unchanged. Our world is not unchanged.

Jesus was not unchanged by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. By hearing God’s Word in the storm, Jesus was transformed. This is the legacy of faith Christ has given us in the Paschal Mystery. May it strengthen, heal, and transform us this Lent. May it comfort all those who so dearly love Emily.


Poetry: The Man Watching  by Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Robert Bly

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on 
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book, 
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny! 
What fights with us is so great. 
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm, 
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things, 
and the triumph itself makes us small. 
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us. 
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews 
grew long like metal strings, 
he felt them under his fingers 
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel 
(who often simply declined the fight) 
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand, 
that kneaded him as if to change his shape. 
Winning does not tempt that man. 
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, 
by constantly greater beings.


Music: Moonlight Sonata in a Thunderstorm 

One thought on “Psalm 81: Through the Storm

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