The end of the story?
1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
2 let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
5 like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
18 You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
Today's reading is one that can be read as bleak, unrelieved woe, with references again and again to being near death, lacking strength, being in the lowest pit and the darkest times.
Doctor Who, being fantasy, and with a tradition of ‘cliffhangers’, can often bring the storyline to a point of ‘there’s no way out of this one’! The earth/galaxy/universe(s) are about to end! Yet almost inevitably, next week the Doctor produces the sonic screwdriver, or K-9 comes out of the Tardis, or something previously hidden from the audience is revealed, and disaster is averted. Again.
‘The West Wing’ being somewhat more grounded in reality (if a slightly different and more optimistic version of our world) still comes to times where not just political reputations, but lives are on the line - often those of American forces.
The characters we have considered, the Doctor and Jed Bartlet, are not, on the whole, dark characters without redeeming features - but neither are they morally pure with no imperfections.
Like all of us, they can act in ways that are ethically ambiguous, do things we wish they had not, as well as doing things we believe we could never do.
But they live in fiction. Our reality is such that sometimes we are in sympathy with the writer of Psalm 88. Feeling confined, eyes dimmed with grief, darkness our closest friend - yet we cry out in prayer to God.
Fortunately the end of the psalm is not the end of the story. The book goes on - to Psalm 89, which begins ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever’! It goes on through prophecy and history to Good News spoken and enacted by Jesus, shared by the disciples. There is hope, indeed.
Gracious and Redeeming God,
We're thankful for fiction, for series that enable us to wind down and escape for a while, and that shine a light on our own situations, on your Word, on the human condition.
We know that we can go through dark times - and feel as if nobody is there, that you are not listening.
Yet the truth is: you are there, friends will listen, there is hope.
Our cliffhangers are not resolved by a clever idea from the writers’ room, or a cunning edit by the director; but by recognising that the darkness of the Psalm is not the end - ‘weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning’.
Be with us in our conflicts;
refine our characters; remake and regenerate us to engage and learn and serve you more closely, with joy and hope.
In the name of Christ,