Written by Lindsey Baynham Freeman, Pastor at Welborne United Methodist Church in Richmond, VA 

palms, ashes, cross, title--lentdevo theme image

Psalm 72, a prayer for the king, is all about reversals & God’s wondrous works throughout all creation. It is a litany that walks us through the hopes for a king that, by God’s support, would bring restoration to a people.  

And not just any people, not just the high and mighty, but the poor and needy, too. This Psalm encompasses all the wondrous things of God and the prayer is that the king might find favor with God, living a life of faith & justice, too. 

The Psalm concludes with these words:

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

I do not think Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, had any idea that these words would come from his mouth when they did. Especially after an encounter with the angel Gabriel announcing his son’s birth. It is after a time of intense silence that the Holy Spirit fills Zechariah’s being and these are the first words he speaks: 

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.”

It is a recalling and continuing of the Psalmist’s prayer. It is an affirmation that God is continuing to do wondrous things. God continues to see the people and redeem them. This time, it begins with the prophet, John, who will prepare the way for the salvation that comes through the Christ child. 

And John’s sole purpose is around reversals and pointing to the power of God manifesting in Jesus. 

The rough places made plain and the crooked paths straight. To be “…a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”

These passages and themes are strong in the Advent season as we await the birth of Jesus. However, in this time of Lent, the challenge and invitation is to live into the reversals Christ embodies for the sake of all. To walk a life of faith that welcomes those in seats of power and on the margins. To intentionally reflect on God’s wondrous works and our sinful ways. The path to Good Friday is one of confession and acknowledgement that though we are dust, we have been redeemed. 

It is a time of receiving the grave words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” And, it is holding the Psalmist’s words of thanksgiving close:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.”

May each be guidance and hope for the journey ahead.