Psalm 22, a lament — Jim Burklo, US

Psalm 22 arises in the Revised Common Lectionary on Good Friday, Lent 2 (B) and Proper 7 (C) and 23 (B).

Oh, vacant sky! Oh, empty land!
Oh heart of mine, bereft of hope!
Why do I even bother crying? What’s the use
Of even complaining? When there is no one to hear
And no one to see my tears?
Why wake at daylight, why sleep at night,
When there is no one to tell about the passage of my time,
the hands of the clock spinning like a vortex
Of water running down a sink.

Yet I find myself writing this lament, as if there was a You to read it.
I howl, as if there was a You to hear it.
I cry, as if there was a You to see my tears.

And so You must be holy
Because my despair itself is sacred–
It is holy because it is all I have left–
Everything else is dust.
My despair is precious because it is all that remains of my life
And there is no one else but You to whom I can express it.

To You I cry
As Israel cried to you from Egypt and from Auschwitz
As black slaves cried to you from the cotton fields of Mississippi
As the mentally ill cry to you from under their rags on the bus stop benches of urban America
To you I cry
As villagers cry to you from Chechnya
As refugees huddle in shelters from the storms of Orissa

But who am I to cry?
What is my despair worth? How do my miseries compare to the unspeakable sufferings of others? By what right do I complain?

Yet I feel a rush of warmth as I lift my lament to You
I feel your presence all around me,
As if I was a baby once again, surrounded by the sweetness of my mother’s breasts
You were there then, to hear my infant cry
You are here now to hear my cry once more
Please, please stay, please comfort me —

Use freely with attribution.

Jim Burklo, Senior Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, writes progressive prayers, hymns and other worship items.  Many of his liturgical materials can be found in his book “Birdlike and Barnless:  Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians”  (2008, St Johann Press).  Explore his blog for more words for worship.

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