I love reading the Psalms and trying to translate them into their modern equivalents. While the Old Testament forbade wearing wool and linen together and ordered stoning as a punishment for cursing God or rebelling against parents, we have our modern-day equivalents of crime and punishment.
When I repeat David’s words of woe, the rising flood, the deep mire, the throat raw from crying, I ask myself what modern-day issues beleaguer me and my fellow parishioners this Lent. Could it be untreatable pain, the illness of a loved one, or a death of a close friend? Might it be an exploitative social order, or catty co-workers, or disrespectful children?
On good weeks, my major millstones might be my lack of productivity, my failure to have reached the pinnacles I had aimed for, my knack of being easily distracted by the computer, the television, the shopping mall. Yes, I’d prefer this to being up to my neck in floodwater and other dire mire, but they are what I struggle with today, and, it seems, every time I utter the General Confession.
Thankfully, Romans has an answer for what ails us: “...but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” What does that mean, in today’s verbs? Taking time to nurture the soul, to appreciate, to daydream, to walk in God’s creation, to make meaningful moments, going through baby pictures with a teenager, leaving oneself open to awe, through music, laughter, or nature, and setting aside time to meditate, or volunteer, or advocate for social justice.
The ways we suffer may have changed since biblical times, but the suffering remains real, and the antidotes are now, as they were then, within our reach -- if we devote our minds and souls to it.