Talk Therapy

Friday, December 14, 2012 — Week of 2 Advent, Year 1

Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross), Mystic, 1591

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 936)

Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)

Isaiah 7:10-25

1 Thessalonians 2:13 – 3:5

Luke 22:14-30

Research has shown that talk therapy within a group of people who are living with the pain and threat of cancer that is expected to be without a cure improves the quality and the length of the participants lives. Statistics from one study I’m familiar with showed that the members of the talk-support group lived twice as long as those who did not have such a group.

There is something healing about being able to face the most unspeakable threats and to talk about them. Members of support groups find meaning in their illness by being able to give help to others and receive it. Often, being with people under a similar threat makes it more possible to talk personally about their own death and fears. And the talking is helpful.

Psalm 31 is like talk therapy with God. The psalmist lets every thought and emotion spill into God’s presence. He asks confidently for God’s strength. He also whines about his own goodness (and the unfairness of it all). He speaks his mind — his fears, his angers (especially his angers). And he speaks his faith. At the end of his conversation, there is a sense of renewed peace and hope: “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for God.”

In a way, Luke’s account of the Last Supper has some of the same elements. Jesus is sharing the Passover with his friends. He talks. He takes the cup and bread and connects the great story of the ancient Passover from Egypt — the sacrifice and liberation — with his own threatening death. He talks about it with his friends.

And like always happens when friends talk, especially when we talk under the pressure of some fear, some people say stupid things. It was the business about the kingdom. Which of us will be the greatest? And yet, they can see, and they have the potential to understand the servant role that their leader has exercised. His life has been a speech. Their new call to authority will be a call to serve. With that insight, they will know themselves to be empowered.

It seems fitting to close with Paul’s prayer for his congregation at Thessaloniki. He has been in a form of talk therapy with them through his letters. Toward the end he writes his prayer. It is a good prayer for us in our later congregations as well:

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do or say. …May the Lord lead your hearts to express God’s love and Christ’s endurance. (2:16-7, 3:5, CEB)


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