Jeremiah in the Pit by Marc ChagallPsalm 71
We will only recite the first six verses of Psalm 71 but I bet Jeremiah knew the whole psalm by heart. It is a good psalm to know, especially when you've been thrown down a well and left for dead and maybe have begun to doubt the promise of your call, “they shall not prevail against you.” So it is not a psalm to be recited lightly. No. This is a psalm that is cried, or shouted, or groaned in silence. This is a cry for help in a time of trouble, a desperate plea for providence when enemies, the wicked, the unjust, the cruel are prevailing against you with a vengeance. It is not a psalm one wants to recite for real so we will chant the appointed six verses and move on to the epistle. But there are those, too numerous to number, for whom these words are more than a liturgical element in a Sunday service. Maybe those of us who live in warmth and comfort and safety, blessed by lives of relative ease, could speak this psalm on their behalf. Maybe in the polite chanting of six verses we could remind God and ourselves of the desperate plight of peoples oppressed by war and famine and disease and earthquake and flood in places where the wicked and the cruel and the unjust are free and the innocent are enslaved. And maybe in our remembering we, to whom much has been given, will live up to much being required and not wait for God to act but do what we were created to do and act on God’s behalf which, of course, is how God answers a plea for help.