Advent 16: Psalm 33,34 & Mark 14:32-42

From Dan Roge

Earlier this week my sister sent a Wendell Berry quote to me. She and I both find ourselves in the midst of befogged transition and this quote gave us a bit of solace — "It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” I find no set of texts quite as baffling as these when laid side by side, so hopefully Berry’s logic holds.

I think my confusion starts with one verse in particular, Psalm 33: 17 - “The righteous cry and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles”. This, when set against just the news of today (ISIS is growing, more teenage boys have been shot by police, the Marshall Islands are being swallowed up by rising oceans and fourteen are dead in San Bernardino) simply doesn’t compute. How, in the world in which I live, has the LORD heard the cry of the righteous? Unless, there are no righteous living in ISIS occupied land, in towering Chicago housing projects or in the Marshall Islands, this feels, at the surface, very hard to understand. Then, I flip to today’s Gospel reading, where, in Mark 14:36 we hear Jesus cry out “Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will be done”. The penultimate righteous one, crying out, heard, but not delivered out of His troubles. At least, not in the way one would expect.

I have no quippy answers on how these two verses coexist in the same scripture without contradicting one another. I do believe this though: that God often seems to allow us to be baffled in the short term. And maybe this, as we wait for the expected Christ, is a good word for us. In a world where the weak are so easily and quickly trampled upon by the strong (by strong people, or strong forces of nature), we are allowed to be baffled, reminded that others have been baffled before (we aren’t the only ones) and we are reminded that we too are weak. Perhaps this sets us up perfectly to be the beneficiaries of his strength and power, that this is the perfectly impeded stream that the LORD can use to bring a good word to his people. Maybe this is how, as we learn in Psalm 33:10 “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the people” so that, in light of our frustrated plans, “The counsel of the LORD [can] stand forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation”.

I’m an 8 month long resident of Boston with my spectacular wife Genevieve. I love making things, especially stories. I recently bought a wetsuit - but I haven’t been able to stand up on my surfboard yet.