Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

HOW TO GO FROM THE ROCK TO A STUMBLING STONE IN ONE EASY LESSON: A COURSE OFFERED BY SAINT PETER



It is Tuesday, August 26, 2008, at 5:03 PM. Here are my thoughts on this week's Gospel and Epistle readings as I continue to prepare for Sunday.

What can Peter teach us about going from the rock on which the entire church is built to being a stone on which Jesus might stumble and become something much less than the Messiah of God? He begins by showing us (see last week’s Gospel reading) that we often say things about God that we really do not understand or believe.

Peter proclaims Jesus is the messiah, the Son of the living God and Jesus praises him by making a pun on the name Peter. Peter in Greek also means rock (as in petrified, turned to stone). So Jesus says Rock, you are rock and on this rock I will build my church. I believe that Peter’s gift of saying that Jesus was the messiah without totally understanding what this title actually meant was and continues to be the rock on which the church is built.

Week after week, we gather as a worshipping community around the Table that Jesus sets for us. We read about him in scriptures and the preacher seeks to share the good news these scriptures offer. We affirm the Nicene Creed which describes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. We do these things sometimes without fully understanding or even accepting this formula of faith. Is this the rock on which Jesus is building his church?

For now, I would say, “yes.” Jesus worked with Peter despite his inability to understand what being the messiah of God or the Son of God really meant. Jesus entrusted to him and to us, the keys to the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven against which the powers of Hades will not prevail. Do you feel trustworthy enough to be handed these keys? Do you feel qualified to know what sins and sinners should be forgiven and which ones should not be?

To complicate our reflections on these questions, professor Peter shows us how quickly he and the church can become a stumbling stone or block to Jesus. After Jesus announces that he is going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to lecture him about what Jesus had said. Have you ever used the expression, “God forbid?” What does that mean to you? Is Peter simply exercising his love and concern for Jesus or he is somehow compulsively and therefore, unknowingly, participating in the very wrathful systemic violence that Jesus’ suffering and death continue to unveil and forgive?

A stumbling stone or block is also called a scandal. Jesus calls Peter “Satan” and orders him to get behind him. It is as if Jesus were back in the wilderness of temptation and being offered a choice that was hard to resist by the Adversary (AKA, Satan or the devil). What was Satanic about Peter’s warning to Jesus? Why would his warning be seen as a stumbling block or stone?

Many people still attribute wrath to God or the gods. We hear some say that they God is going to rain down his wrath on sinners. Jesus seems to have a different relationship with God and therefore a different understanding of who God is. Jesus calls God, Our Father. As a Son in relationship to Our Father, Jesus knew that God was not violent, wrathful, or vengeful. But how could he show us most clearly the Father whom he knew and loved?

When one of the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus responded saying: “Have I been with you so long and you still do not see the Father who is in me?” To see Jesus is to see the heart of Our Father. Jesus did not raise an army or instigate violence against Caesar or anyone else. If he knew God our Father to be utterly non-violent and fully alive, he “must” go to Jerusalem.

He goes to this place of rejection, suffering, and death not to condemn us, but to save us from ourselves. Peter’s seemingly loving concern was based upon his knowledge of the wrathful human ways. He really did not yet know the Father who had revealed Jesus as his Son. But his words were taken right out of the book written to keep things just the way they have always been.

Fear preaches a million sermons a day and Peter spoke to Jesus as if he were Satan himself. Satan is the principle (Prince) of human wrath and violence, dividing us up and cheering on one side and then the other with the belief that violence can and will rid the world of all evil. Peter did not see Jesus raising armies or using his divine power to rain down death on his enemies. Since Jesus would not fight, Peter counseled him to avoid the powerful Romans and the zealous religious folks who dispensed suffering and death to maintain what they called life.

Jesus called Peter, his disciples, and us to pick up our cross. Our cross is not our individual hardships that come to many people during the course of a life time, but our mission to be servants and children of God. We carry our cross together as the church. We follow a vision of God that does not include the anthropomorphic gods of violence which allow us to justify violence against our enemies. We pray for our enemies and offer them nourishment when they are hungry and thirsty. That is the cross we must bear together and sometimes individually.

How can we learn from Peter and not become a stumbling block or stone to Jesus? I think the deeper question is: How can we become the rock on which the church is built given that we have been conformed to a world of wrath that threatens, expels, and murders the Messiah? Jesus offers us time with him. Peter shares his story of faith with us. St. Paul also shares his story and offers us a way of being which may look like a cross to us (See our reading from Romans for Sunday), but which truly gives us the chance to loose our so-called way of being to gain true life.

I hope to see you Sunday.

God’s Peace in Rocks of Stumbling and the Rock on which the Church is Built,
Bob+

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HOW CAN WE REALLY KNOW THAT JESUS IS THE MESSIAH?



It is Monday, August 18, 2008, at 5:03 PM and I now offer some thoughts on this week’s Gospel reading. I still have much to ponder between now and Sunday.

There are many very religious people who believe Jesus is the messiah. I am one of them. But what if my idea of what a messiah is differs from other people’s ideas? How can I know or we know if Jesus is the messiah? In our Gospel for this week Jesus tells Peter that “flesh and blood” had not revealed Jesus as messiah to him, but Jesus’ Father in heaven.

There is an ongoing question in Matthew of who Jesus is. Matthew clearly states that Jesus is the Messiah (Mt. 1:17-18: “There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David. There were also fourteen more to the birth of the Messiah. This is how Jesus the Christ was born.”) as he records the ancestors of Jesus and tells the story of Jesus’ birth.

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father was told by an angel that the child Mary was carrying was to be named “Jesus” which means “God saves (Mt. 1:19-24).”

Matthew tells of the wise men coming to worship a new king and messiah and how Herod seeks to kill this child who would be king and messiah (Mt. 2:1-23)

After John baptized Jesus, Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the Adversary known as Satan (Mt. 4:1-11). The very first temptation challenges Jesus’ identity. Satan said: “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.” Again, Satan dares Jesus to jump off of the highest point of the Temple saying: “If you are God’s Son, jump off. The Scriptures say: ‘God will give his angels orders about you to catch you in their arms, and you won’t hurt your feet on the stones.’”

Jesus refuses to fall for this ploy and so Satan simply offers him the power to control all of the kingdoms of the earth in exchange for giving up his relationship with God and his mission as the messiah.

So, Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was God’s Son and the Messiah. The wise men from the East knew. Even Herod and his advisors knew. And Satan knew that Jesus was the messiah and God’s son. But what about his disciples?

According to Matthew, the disciples witnessed Jesus healing, feeding, and teaching and based upon their observations, the idea that Jesus might be the Messiah, the hope of Israel was not even present in their minds. Yes, he did miracles. Yes, he taught like no one else they had ever heard, but their understanding of what a messiah would be was radically different from what they saw Jesus doing. Jesus had no ambition to lead an army against the Romans, but he did speak of the Kingdom of Heaven as if the Roman Emperor was not the final power or authority on the earth.

The first question of Jesus’ identity comes in Mt. 8:23-27. In the midst of a stormy sea journey, Jesus was asleep in the boat. His disciples awake him saying: “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus chides them for their lack of faith and then stills the wind and water by a word and his disciples “were amazed and said, ‘who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.’”

The enlarging of the understanding of the term, “messiah” is part of Matthew’s Gospel task. The disciples’ understanding was limited to the categories of power exercised by the Gentiles and by their historic kings who were victorious over the Gentiles. When Jesus exercises power that does not invest itself in violence or empire building, the disciples are perplexed. “Who is this?”

Flesh and blood has a very limited range for understanding the power and love of God. In fact, since our human limitations can not fathom power to be anything but abusive, violent, and dominating of others, Jesus continues to remain unrecognized as the messiah by even the Christians of our age.

It is not that we are intentionally obtuse. The disciples were not stupid and neither are we. They were men and women who were worldly wise and who had only experienced power as superior violence used to conquer, control, and dominate. Peter’s words: “You are the Christ (messiah), the Son of the Living God!” are truly from beyond his limited experience.

Once we make a profession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, we must walk the path to Golgotha with Peter in order to understand the deep power of God to save us from ourselves. We must experience power that does not destroy, but that brings life and healing and forgiveness.

How can you know for sure that Jesus is the Christ? Jesus said: “Follow me.” If we follow Jesus we too will find ourselves, like Peter, in situations where we are keenly aware of our need to be forgiven. We will come to know the grace that comes with knowing in our hearts that God's true messiah is not like anyone our world could dream up. The messiah is not Superman or the Hulk, but a compassionate, healing, forgiving, and healing person who is the image of the God of life.

Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WELL EXCUSSSSSSEEEEE MEEEEEE


It is Tuesday, August 12, 2008 and the time is 1:45 PM. Here are my reflections on the Gospel for this week. Thanks for reading. Any comments are welcome at rwcornner@aol.com or on the blog.

Have you ever gotten up in the morning, certain that today, someone, somewhere was going to offend you? Perhaps while driving your car you see people who do not drive by, in my case, “Robert’s Rules of the Road.” I don’t think I have to innumerate all of my possible uncharitable responses to those who stand guilty of violating my way of doing things or my world view. As Father Norm shared in his sermon about the guy who shot gunned his lawn mower, I was reminded how each person has a edge very much like this enraged and self-entitled man with the dead lawn mower (may it rust in peace).

Maybe this side of us does not show very often or maybe we are simply good at censoring our offended psyche and keeping our critical thoughts and remarks to ourselves. Most of us would never think of “killing” our lawn mowers or the guy driving torturously slowly in front of us, but that does not mean that we never take offense.

We have spoken and written a good deal about faith and I would like to offer another challenging understanding of faith as it applies to offense taking. Jesus once said: “blessed are they who take no offense at me.” While I may take offense at my neighbor or an enemy, on first read, Jesus’ blessing seems like a slam dunk. After all, who could take offense at someone like Jesus, Son of God, Messiah, Savior?

I am certainly part of a long line of Christians who would be offended by Jesus if, overtime, we had not subverted the image of Jesus into a likable enough fellow who blessed all of our desires, actions, and thoughts. The fact that this subverted Jesus is also God plays very well. After all, if you are looking for someone with whom to agree, God is an excellent beginning, middle, and ending. If God is on our side, who can be against us?

So, we do have a problem. Since we seem to need to have a God who does not offend us and blesses our ways, we must deny the possibility that “our” Jesus is someone other than what we would have him be. We have to admit that Jesus might very well say things that would offend us and our institutions and national priorities and behaviors.

But to be a Christian means having enough faith to hear those things that might offend us and to respond, not by being offended, but by being willing to listen and change based upon what we hear. Did you know that the word for “disobedience” comes from a Greek word meaning “not hearing?”

If you remember the description of Stephen’s testimony, trial, and stoning in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:8-8:2), Stephen laid out the history of Israel as a regular unwillingness to listen to what God was saying to them, God’s chosen people. This refusal to listen was called “disobedience” by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32).

In truth, the conscience of Israel, its prophets and holy people, did listen and tried to call the nation back from their disobedience. Were they successful? I think so. They were successful enough to let the truth flow into the darkness of their disobedience. I think we can understand their unwillingness to believe what they were being told.

The willingness to listen to that which offends our way of thinking and doing is an act of faith. To listen with an open heart and mind to what might be considered insulting words is very difficult. Anyone who is in a relationship knows how hard it is to hear a spouse or loved one tell us something we don’t want to hear. Faith in God opens our ears to hear that which might otherwise lead us to angrily strike out at the one speaking to us.

Our Gospel for Sunday is about two groups: one group of religious Jews called “the Pure Ones” and the second group which has only two people: a Gentile woman and her very sick daughter. The woman is seeking healing for her daughter and has come to Jesus.

Notice as you read this passage how concerned the disciples are that the Pharisees had taken offense at what Jesus was saying.

Matthew 15: 10-20, 21-28

Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." Then the disciples approached and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?"

Jesus’ response to his disciples’ anxiety over offending the Pharisees is interesting. He tells the disciples to leave the Pharisees alone. Why? Because these leaders are blind to what really matters in the big scheme of things. They are concerned about washing hands instead of what truly pollutes the human family—our desires that flow from our hearts. These desires are for things that belong to others such as property, status, and even identity rather than for the things that God desires.

What does God desire? What were the two great commandments that Jesus taught? To desire to love God and God’s creation and our neighbors as ourselves is what heals the individual and corporate human heart. Read what Jesus says about these leaders. Following what they desire will result in falling into the pit.

Peter, the sinker of last week, asks Jesus for clarification of what he had said in the parable. Notice below what flows from the human heart that does not focus on the desire of God. This is the pit into which the leaders and those who follow them will fall. The pit is a place of murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander. In short, the pit is where our world finds itself today. Each of these dimensions of the pit are simply the outcomes of our desiring what others have. Our desire is for what they have or who they are rather than what God offers.

He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit." But Peter said to him, "Explain this parable to us." Then he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile."

It seems that Matthew’s story telling offered the listener (us) an example of something Jesus had just been teaching. So, if issues of purity were explored in the previous passages, Matthew now tells us a story of Jesus traveling to a Gentile territory by sea.

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.
To whom was Jesus sent? This story makes it clear that Jesus was sent to his own people, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This Gentile woman endured some pretty tough language from Jesus, but rather than taking offense, she simply acknowledge that while Jesus was sent to Israel, what he brings to the world was more than enough for non-Jews too.

In effect, this woman affirms (faith statement) that Israel’s mission was to those who were not Israel, the Gentiles. Israel’s mission was to restore the world to God. Their rejection of Jesus (remember how the Pharisees took offense at Jesus), historically may have been necessary for the blessing of what Jesus brought to the world was to spread beyond Israel.

In fact, that is how Paul seems to understand the rejection of Jesus. Israel’s rejection was not seen as in any way ending God’s choice of Israel as his chosen people. Gentiles were considered impure by the Pharisees. Matthew’s story shows how Jesus reverses this judgment against Gentiles. Jesus comes to the Gentiles and heals them, feeds and leads them to the very promises with which God entrusted Israel.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A WALK ON THE ANGRY HUMAN SEA



How often have you heard the expressions “angry sea,” “raging wind and waves,” or some other description of a storm tossed body of water as violent or wrathful? Growing up by the Pacific (peaceful) Ocean, I have seen large storms driven by extreme winds and tides do considerable damage to our beaches and to those homes that are built along the surf.

How many of you think that such storms or Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the southeastern coastal cities of Louisiana and Mississippi, are wrathful expressions of an angry god? This may sound like a silly question to ask of people living in the 21st century, but there are many people, including Christians, who believe that God’s anger or wrath breaks out on human beings in such violent and destructive storms. Some even call such events “acts of God.”

So what are we to make of this Sunday’s Gospel about a stormy sea crossing being attempted by the disciples? Last week, if you will recall, Matthew offered us the story of the feeding of over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. This story was preceded by parables told by Jesus and by the rejection of Jesus by his own people at Nazareth. Finally, Herod’s murder of John the Baptist becomes the setting for the healing and feeding that serves as an introduction to our reading.

John’s death is introduced by way of Herod convincing himself that Jesus must be John come back from the dead because the power to do the miracles Jesus was doing could only come from someone who had overcome death.

But Jesus was not John and the story of the feeding of the 5,000 reveals some interesting and unexpected behaviors by Jesus and the crowd. Jesus had gone away to spend time with God. This time alone with God allowed Jesus to keep his eyes on his Father as the source of all that was desirable. God’s will was not like the desires of rulers, kings, politicians, revolutionaries, or religious leaders.

Such people were stuck in their desire to have the power and place of each other. Jesus rejected such desires when he was tempted in the wilderness. Instead, Jesus looked to God’s goodness, non-violent, deathless, loving, forgiving, and merciful nature and desired to be just like God in these ways. Imagine what our world would be like if we truly desired to be like the God whom Jesus called Father.

As Jesus sought this time of solitude, he was surrounded by a large crowd. Do large crowds showing up on your door step make you nervous? Jesus responds to this crowd by keeping his eyes on his Father while healing everyone who was brought to him. At the end of the day, this crowd no longer had anyone who was considered impure or unclean due to illness or possession. How might this impact this gathered crowd?

The other day I was talking with a member of the congregation about the local schools and cities. Does it seem shocking to anyone who reads these words that even among the high socio-economic beach cities there is a certain “better than thee or thou” attitude? Perhaps you have even made such comparisons.

So consider how the crowd that gathered around Jesus might have felt if all of the ways they distinguished between holy and unholy were lost in the healing touch of an afternoon with Jesus? Must others be “less than” in order for any of us to be “more than?” Apparently in God's Kingdom, the answer to this question is a resounding, “No.”

I would suggest, however, that potential problems might arise when such equality emerges quickly and without the loving presence of Jesus. Consider the bloody history of the French revolution. Once equality was declared, angry and self-righteous judgment against the former aristocracy created a new violent hierarchy. How many time have we wrapped ourselves in such self-serving and self-righteous causes when the playing field was leveled?

Perhaps Jesus’ healing of everyone in the crowd was just the beginning of a greater miracle in which hearts were healed of the need to be in violent, zealous, and in self-righteous rivalry with others.

The disciples may have sensed a potential conflict brewing. If God created us in equality and Jesus’ healing restored that original equality, how long would it be before human sin would respond to this act of love and seek to dismantle the new creation that was emerging in the wilderness? The disciples were men of the world. They knew the rules of this game and they could see a storm brewing amongst these 5,000 hungry pilgrims.

As Father Norm said last week, there is a rage that is just below the surface of our society and our world that terrifies us. All of our rules and laws seek to control this rage and violence. We fear this human wrath and our response to this fear is controlled or sacred violence used as a deterrent.

The disciples' solution was to send the crowd away to procure food for themselves. Might there have been an outbreak of violence if some of those present had no food? Might the strongest steal from the weakest? If there was to be violence or a fight over food, the disciples hoped for it to take place elsewhere. When Jesus told them that they should feed this hungry and potentially violent gathering, he was setting the stage for the true miracle that Herod could never have understood or accepted as an act of God’s power.

Jesus took the bread and the fish, blessed it, and broke it and had his disciples distribute it to all of those seated on the grass before him. Instead of an expected violent storm of human wrath breaking out, the crowd simply sat and ate what Jesus had blessed. Jesus is God’s Son and as such, he brought to this moment of human wrath, the peace of God which passes all understanding.

Restored to their equal status as sons and daughters of God through Jesus’ healing touch, they now received the greater gift and miracle of peace. Jesus looks to heaven and as he does he blesses, not only the bread, but all of those present. The crowd followed Jesus’ eyes heavenward instead of looking at what they each had. They ate, as Father Norm said, at the eschatological Table. That is, they ate as if the end of time had arrived and they became, for a moment in time, what God had created them to be--children of a loving Father/Mother. That was the miracle and continues to be the miracle each and every time we gather at the Table of our Lord.

But the story continues. Jesus dismisses the crowd. Seeing him, they had seen God and were filled. There were 12 baskets of leftovers. Jesus continued on. He dismissed the crowd to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Perhaps they responded: “Thanks be to God!” Now Jesus sought that moment of seeing his Father. Matthew says that Jesus prayed.

Prayer, seeing God's loving, always living and vivacious, forgiving, healing, and merciful ways even towards those with whom we disagree or who we consider to be our enemies, is Jesus' way to live in a violent, unforgiving, and wrathful world. In keeping his eyes on God, he remains grounded in the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But what about the disciples? How does Matthew describe their experience in the world of human wrath? He tells a story about a violent, angry, raging sea on which the disciples are sailing. Matthew says that the wind is against them. I can imagine the conversations in that small boat as the storm threatens to end their lives.

Maybe a larger boat would be better. Maybe throwing over disciples that have been troublesome would appease the angry sea or God. Maybe not having sailed at all would have eliminated the risk of drowning. Maybe the whole reason for following Jesus was called into question.

The church today is acting out a scene very much like the one that Matthew so beautifully narrates. We meet in a building that looks like an upside down ship and call the area in which the crew (congregation) lives, the nave (from Latin for ship) and we often lament that the wind is against us and that the storm of violence and human wrath even within our small community threatens to sink us. To be sure, the rage in the world does threaten the church, but Matthew's story shows the church a way to be very much in the world as a transforming presence, not just a surviving relic.

The disciples see Jesus coming to them on the sea in the midst of storm and darkness. They cry out for fear that he is a ghost since the sea was believed to be the abode of evil spirits and chaos. Jesus immediately reassures them that it is not a ghost, but he himself. How often do we in the church today imagine Jesus coming to us as a punishing specter seeking to destroy us?

Or, if we have out grown such notions of ghosts and things that go bump in the dark, believe that Jesus is simply a product of human imagination? Whether punishing and avenging ghost or an insignificant vestige of human fairy tales, really does not matter. Both beliefs about who Jesus is to us in the middle of our wrathful world really do not bring us closer to dealing with our sinking ship.

Peter cries out to Jesus to command Peter to come to him on the sea. How often did Jesus come close to being stoned to death or otherwise murdered by a storming and angry crowd? How many such crowds did the early church encounter? And yet, Jesus was not murdered until he allowed himself to be drowned in the angry human sea of rage. Throughout his ministry he walked on this sea of rage instead of becoming its victim. He did not return rage and wrath for the rage and wrath that was intended for him. He walked on water.

Before Sunday, I would suggest reading all of Matthew's 14th chapter and Psalm 69 offered below in the Eugene Peterson translation called The Message. I want you to especially note the psalmist's response to be being treated as a victim to human rage and wrath.

Is that the response that Peter offers when he asks Jesus to command him to come out on the water with Jesus?

Is that his response when he finds himself sinking into the rage and wrath that threatened to destroy Jesus?

How did Peter die?

Do you know if Peter ever lost it and sunk into the sea of human wrath? If so, how was he restored and rescue from his sinking? See you on Sunday.


Psalm 69
A David Psalm
 1 God, God, save me! I'm in over my head,

 2 Quicksand under me, swamp water over me;
   I'm going down for the third time.

 3 I'm hoarse from calling for help,
   Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.

 4 I've got more enemies than hairs on my head;
   Sneaks and liars are out to knife me in the back.
   What I never stole
   Must I now give back?

 5 God, you know every sin I've committed;
   My life's a wide-open book before you.

 6 Don't let those who look to you in hope
   Be discouraged by what happens to me,
   Dear Lord! God of the armies!
   Don't let those out looking for you
   Come to a dead end by following me—
   Please, dear God of Israel!

 7 Because of you I look like an idiot,
   I walk around ashamed to show my face.

 8 My brothers shun me like a bum off the street;
   My family treats me like an unwanted guest.

 9 I love you more than I can say.
   Because I'm madly in love with you,
   They blame me for everything they dislike about you.

 10 When I poured myself out in prayer and fasting,
   All it got me was more contempt.

 11 When I put on a sad face,
   They treated me like a clown.

 12 Now drunks and gluttons
   Make up drinking songs about me.

 13 And me? I pray.
   God, it's time for a break!
   God, answer in love!
   Answer with your sure salvation!

 14 Rescue me from the swamp,
   Don't let me go under for good,
   Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy;
   This whirlpool is sucking me down.

 15 Don't let the swamp be my grave, the Black Hole
   Swallow me, its jaws clenched around me.

 16 Now answer me, God, because you love me;
   Let me see your great mercy full-face.

 17 Don't look the other way; your servant can't take it.
   I'm in trouble. Answer right now!

 18 Come close, God; get me out of here.
   Rescue me from this deathtrap.

 19 You know how they kick me around—
   Pin on me the donkey's ears, the dunce's cap.

 20 I'm broken by their taunts,
   Flat on my face, reduced to a nothing.
   I looked in vain for one friendly face. Not one.
   I couldn't find one shoulder to cry on.

 21 They put poison in my soup,
   Vinegar in my drink.

 22 Let their supper be bait in a trap that snaps shut;
   May their best friends be trappers who'll skin them alive.

 23 Make them become blind as bats,
   Give them the shakes from morning to night.

 24 Let them know what you think of them,
   Blast them with your red-hot anger.

 25 Burn down their houses,
   Leave them desolate with nobody at home.

 26 They gossiped about the one you disciplined,
   Made up stories about anyone wounded by God.

 27 Pile on the guilt,
   Don't let them off the hook.

 28 Strike their names from the list of the living;
   No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.

 29 I'm hurt and in pain;
   Give me space for healing, and mountain air.

 30 Let me shout God's name with a praising song,
   Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

 31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
   Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.

 32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
   Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

 33 For God listens to the poor,
   He doesn't walk out on the wretched.

 34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
   Also ocean and all things that swim in it.

 35 For God is out to help Zion,
   Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.
   Guess who will live there—
   The proud owners of the land?

 36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
   The lovers of his name will live in it.