Psalm 130 (NSRV) A Song of Ascents
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.
Romans 8:35-39 (NRSV)
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In 1738, John Wesley – an Anglican cleric and one of the founders of Methodism – was depressed and discouraged. He had recently returned from a missionary trip to America that had not gone well, and during which he had fallen in love with a woman who married another, partly because he hesitated to tell her his feelings. He was uncertain of his faith and unsure about his future. Then one May afternoon, he was deeply moved by hearing the choir of St. Paul’s sing Psalm 130 (you can hear a sung version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yETRxtYIL-E). That evening, he very reluctantly attended a lecture on Martin Luther’s Preface to Romans. As Wesley later wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ.” John Wesley marked that as his real conversion, the moment the kingdom of God became a reality for him.
Both the Psalm passage and Romans 8, two passages that called so profoundly to Wesley, speak to despair and hardship. Both these passages respect the truth that faith does not protect us from hardship, persecution, peril. But the gift of faith is knowing that when we cry “out of the depths” nothing – nothing – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus that is indeed the kingdom of God.
God, we wait for you. Many wait for you. Help us to find you even when we are in the depths, and help us lead others to see their place in the kingdom of God.