Up to Your Neck

Friday, September 20, 2013 — Week of Proper 19, Year One

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

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalms 69:1-23(24-30)3-38 (morning) // 73 (evening)

2 Kings 1:2-17

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Matthew 5:11-16

The psalmist this morning is up to his neck in troubles of all kinds—people who hate and target him for no reason, as well as his own foolishness, faults, and shame. But what better time to shout out a psalm than the moment before we are buried in overwhelming circumstances? To quote Samuel Beckett (minus the coarse language), “When you’re in up to your neck, there’s nothing left to do but sing.”

The moment before our lives and troubles overwhelm us, we have a window of opportunity to call out for help and to find a way to give thanks. A key practice of our spiritual lives is asking for help and gaining perspective before we go under.

When we’re in up to our necks, our next breath should ask for help. The psalmist’s first words this morning are “Save me.” Throughout the psalm, he asks God for deliverance: “Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; let me be rescued . . . out of the deep waters. Let not the torrent of waters wash over me, neither let the deep swallow me up; do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.”

After we’ve asked for help, hopefully we can follow the pattern of so many psalms and offer praise and thanksgiving before we’re out of breath. The psalmist is determined: “I will praise the Name of God in song; I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.” His praise of God includes affirmations that those who are afflicted will be glad, that the hearts of those who seek God will live, and that God listens to those in need and in captivity.

The psalmist also looks beyond the flood that threatens him. How often does gazing at the created universe put our own problems in perspective? As the psalmist says, “Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the seas and all that moves in them.”

The psalmist’s cries for help and words of praise come in the final moments that he has breath to utter them—when “the waters have risen up to my neck,” and when “I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet.” I imagine these words coming out hoarse and broken, because the psalmist tells us, “I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed.”

What help do you need to ask for before it’s too late? What praise and thanksgiving can you express, even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances? If you’re in up to your neck, try using your next few breaths to seek help and to sing.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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