The 5th Lenten Service is coming up. We´re following the propers of the local lectionary. The Introit starts us off with the 5th penitential Psalm. “The prayer of an oppressed man, as he grows faint and pours out his lament before the Lord:
O Lord, hear my prayer.
Pay attention to my cry for help.
Do not ignore me in my time of trouble.
Listen to me. When I call out to you, quickly answer me.
For my days go up in smoke, and my bones are charred as in a fireplace.
My heart is parched and withered like grass, for I am unable to eat food.
Because of the anxiety that makes me groan, my bones protrude from my skin.
I am like an owl in the wilderness; I am like a screech owl among the ruins.
I stay awake; I am like a solitary bird on a roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me; those who mock me use my name in their curses.
For I eat ashes as if they were bread, and mix my drink with my tears,
because of your anger and raging fury.
Indeed, you pick me up and throw me away.
My days are coming to an end, and I am withered like grass.
But you, O Lord, rule forever, and your reputation endures.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion.
For it is time to have mercy on her, for the appointed time has come.
Indeed, your servants take delight in her stones, and feel compassion for the dust of her ruins.
The nations will respect the reputation of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth will respect his splendor,
when the Lord rebuilds Zion, and reveals his splendor,
when he responds to the prayer of the destitute,
and does not reject their request.
The account of his intervention will be recorded for future generations;
people yet to be born will praise the Lord.
For he will look down from his sanctuary above;
from heaven the Lord will look toward earth,
in order to hear the painful cries of the prisoners,
and to set free those condemned to die,
so they may proclaim the name of the Lord in Zion,
and praise him in Jerusalem, when the nations gather together,
and the kingdoms pay tribute to the Lord.
He has taken away my strength in the middle of life; he has cut short my days.Psalm 102
I say, “O my God, please do not take me away in the middle of my life.
You endure through all generations.
In earlier times you established the earth; the skies are your handiwork.
They will perish, but you will endure.
They will wear out like a garment; like clothes you will remove them and they will disappear. But you remain; your years do not come to an end.
The children of your servants will settle down here,
and their descendants will live securely in your presence.
The Old Testament lesson from the holy prophet Isaiah reminds us of our good Lord´s committment to His suffering servant, whose mission He not only confirms but expands to be light of the nations:
He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.”
But I thought, “I have worked in vain; I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.” But the Lord will vindicate me; my God will reward me.
So now the Lord says, the one who formed me from birth to be his servant— he did this to restore Jacob to himself, so that Israel might be gathered to him; and I will be honored in the Lord’s sight, for my God is my source of strength — he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel?
I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”Isaiah 49:3-6
Johann Hermann (1585-1647) summarizes the vicarious significance and sacramental purpose of our good Lord´s suffering for us under Pontius Pilate – there outside the city – pro nobis – while we contemplate the deep lament of our Lord on the holy Cross on Mt. Calvary and barren Golgotha:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Mt.27:46
O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what great crime hast Thou to make confession—
What dark transgression?
They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite, they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee;
They give Thee gall to drink, they still decry Thee;
They crucify Thee.
Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;
Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,
This I do merit.
What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
Who would not know Him.
The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted;
God is committed.
There was no spot in me by sin untainted;
Sick with sin’s poison, all my heart had fainted;
My heavy guilt to hell had well-nigh brought me,
Such woe it wrought me.
O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded,
That brought Thee here, by foes and thieves surrounded!
All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying
While Thou wert dying.
O mighty King, no time can dim Thy glory!
How shall I spread abroad Thy wondrous story?
How shall I find some worthy gifts to proffer?
What dare I offer?
For vainly doth our human wisdom ponder—
Thy woes, Thy mercy, still transcend our wonder.
Oh, how should I do aught that could delight Thee!
Can I requite Thee?
Yet unrequited, Lord, I would not leave Thee;
I will renounce whate’er doth vex or grieve Thee
And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly
All fires unholy.
But since my strength will nevermore suffice me
To crucify desires that still entice me,
To all good deeds, oh, let Thy Spirit win me
And reign within me!
I’ll think upon Thy mercy without ceasing,
That earth’s vain joys to me no more be pleasing;
To do Thy will shall be my sole endeavor
Whate’er of earthly good this life may grant me.
I’ll risk for Thee; no shame, no cross, shall daunt me.
I shall not fear what man can do to harm me
Nor death alarm me.
But worthless is my sacrifice, I own it;
Yet, Lord, for love’s sake Thou wilt not disown it;
Thou wilt accept my gift in Thy great meekness
Nor shame my weakness.
And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven“Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen” (Johann Heermann, 1630) translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863 and others. The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, No. 143
To me the crown of joy at last is given,
Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,
I, too, shall praise Thee.