“I Am Finished”

“I Am Finished”

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PNEUMA 40 (2018) 150–166

“I am Finished”

Christological Reading(s) and Pentecostal Performance(s) of Psalm 88

Chris Green

Pentecostal Theological Seminary, Cleveland, Tennessee

[email protected]

Abstract

Psalm 88 is unrelentingly dark; it is the only one of the lament psalms that does not turn at some point to praise. How are we to read it? First, primarily, we should read it christologically—as witness to the experience of Christ. Read in this way, the Psalms give us insight into the passion narrative. Second, we should ask how the text matters for us as Pentecostals. It calls us away from triumphalism, requiring us to take seriously the experience of god-forsakenness, and forcing us to reimagine our core beliefs and practices.

Keywords

Christology – theological interpretation – pentecostal spirituality – Dietrich Bonhoef- fer – Hans Urs von Balthasar – suffering – Psalms

1Yahweh, God of my salvation, when I cry out to you in the night, 2may my prayer reach your presence, hear my cry for help.

3For I am filled with misery, my life is on the brink of Sheol; 4already numbered among those who sink into oblivion, I am as one

bereft of strength,

5left alone among the dead, like the slaughtered lying in the grave,

whom you remember no more, cut off as they are from your protec-

tion.

6You have plunged me to the bottom of the grave, in the darkness, in the

depths;

7weighted down by your anger, kept low by your waves.

8You have deprived me of my friends, made me repulsive to them,

imprisoned, with no escape;

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2018 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-04001004

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9my eyes are worn out with suffering. I call to you, Yahweh, all day, I

stretch out my hands to you.

10Do you work wonders for the dead, can shadows rise up to praise you? 11Do they speak in the grave of your faithful love, of your constancy in

the place of perdition?

12Are your wonders known in the darkness, your saving justice in the

land of oblivion?

13But, for my part, I cry to you, Yahweh, every morning my prayer comes

before you;

14why, Yahweh, do you rebuff me, turn your face away from me? 15Wretched and close to death since childhood, I have borne your

terrors—I am finished!

16Your anger has overwhelmed me, your terrors annihilated me. 17They flood around me all day long, close in on me all at once. 18You have deprived me of friends and companions, and all that I know

is the dark.

Psalm 88,NJB

Introduction

How are we to read, pray, or preach this psalm? It is truly a “whirlpool of tor- ment,” the only one of the so-called lament psalms that does not at some point turn toward repentance or praise.1And if we are honest, we have to admit that it is nothing less than “an embarrassment to conventional faith.”2 As Bruegge- mann reads it, the psalm is a confession of the loss of faith. “Nothing works. Nothing is changed. Nothing is resolved. All things deny life. And worst of all is the ‘shunning.”’3 But perhaps it is nearer the truth to say that the psalmist is not so much losing faith as having it—dying if not already dead—ripped from him. God is not so much feared to be absent as felt to be an actively oppressive presence. The question is forced, then: how are we, as people who desire to be moved by Jesus’s Spirit, to let such a psalm in all of its dismay and troubledness work on us so that our ears are opened to hear the life-giving Word of God? How isthistext a witness to the gospel?

1 James L. Crenshaw, A Whirlpool of Torment: Israelite Traditions of God as an Oppressive Pres-

ence(Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1984).

2 Walter Brueggemann, A Theological Commentary on the Psalms (Minneapolis: Augsburg

Fortress Press, 1994), 78.

3 Brueggemann, A Theological Commentary on the Psalms, 80.

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To answer those questions, I am convinced we must begin by looking for the text’s “Christological plain sense,”4 asking what this psalm reveals of Jesus— what it says of him and how it speaks for him—in light of his already accom- plished and yet ongoing work. What Bonhoeffer says of the Psalter as a whole must somehow be true of this psalm too:

It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne all human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God, and who stands in our place and prays for us. He has known torment and pain, guilt and death more deeply than we have.Therefore it is the prayer of the human nature assumed by Christ that comes before God here. It is really our prayer. But since the Son of God knows us better than we know ourselves, and was truly human for our sake, it is also really the Son’s prayer. It can become our prayer only because it was his prayer.5

Bonhoeffer insists that ultimately we must hear all of the Psalms—impre- catory and lament psalms, thanksgiving and praise psalms—as Jesus’s own prayers. Only he can pray them in their fullness. All the suffering and misery, all the joy and delight that the Psalms invoke are “genuine and real [especially] in Jesus Christ.”6

But what exactly does this mean? How does it work, theologically and hermeneutically? Everything depends on two basic assumptions: (1) In the incarnation, God the Son personally assumes the fullness of humanity to him- self so that nothing that is truly human is finally foreign to him; whatever hap- pens to him matters definitively for all other creatures; he is the true Israelite, the last Adam, who as intercessor for all bears the experiences of all.7 (2) The Psalms, by the Spirit’s wisdom, give expression to archetypical human experi- ences, and just in that way to the experiences of Christ as thearcheof creation.8

4 On this, see the excellent work of Jason Byassee, Praise Seeking Understanding: Reading the

Psalms with Augustine(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).

5 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, DBW 5 (Minneapolis: Fortress

Press, 2004), 159–160.

6 Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook, 56.

7 See Ephraim Radner,The End of the Church: A Pneumatology of Christian Division in the West

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) and Time and Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scrip-

tures(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming).

8 As Walter Brueggemann (“Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” in

Patrick D. Miller, ed.,The Psalms and the Life of Faith[Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995], 3–32

[27]) explains, “The Psalms transmit to us ways of speaking that are appropriate to the extrem-

ities of human experience as known concretely in Israel. Or, to use Ricoeur’s language, we

have ‘limit-expressions’ (laments, songs of celebration) that match ‘limit-experiences’ (dis-

orientation, reorientation).”

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If whatever any human being has experienced or does experience is necessar- ily a figuration of what Christ himself experienced, and if the Psalms embody human experience uniquely, then Christ’s life must be figured in a particu- lar way in the Psalms. The Psalms reveal Christ by giving us the “profile” of a particular—and particularly extreme—human experience.9 And just in that way,the PsalmsareChrist’sprayers.And thereforethey speak thegospelinways different from (but of course not separate from) other canonical texts.

The Christ of Psalm 88

What, then, does this particular psalm reveal? How does its dark movements figure Christ for us? What christological profile does it afford?

The Christ of the Garden

First, it witnesses the agony of Christ in the garden. Perhaps at some point in his life prior to this moment, Jesus prayed this very prayer as his own.10 But here and now, in this darkness, he assumes the anguish of Psalm 88 as his own

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See Francesca A. Murphy, “Profiling Christ: The Psalms of Abandonment,”Modern Theol- ogy 28, no. 4 (Oct 2012): 748–762. What Murphy says of David and his sufferings applies equally well to the psalmist of Psalm 88, “We cannot imagine the abandonment of Christ, the son of God. David’s Psalms of lament and abandonment give us a human mirror and human words with which to imagine, picture and verbalize the unimaginable. Bonhoeffer says truly that ‘even David did not pray out of the personal exuberance of his heart, but out of the Christ who dwelled in him.’ But it is equally true that we can best conceive that exuberant abandonment as profiled through David. In other words, both the literal, histor- ical, ‘original’ of the Psalms of abandonment, that is, David in his plight, and his symbolic double, Christ, are necessary to the appreciation of these Psalms.”

As a close reading of theNTmakes clear, the earliest Christians came to understand Jesus’s person and work in large part through their reading of the Psalms. And Jesus’s own self- understanding, insofar as we can speak of such a thing, must have developed in large part from his reading of the Psalms, including, for instance, Psalms 2, 22, and 110. We perhaps catch glimpses of this development in the Gospel accounts (e.g., Mark 12:35–40 and 15:33– 34). Be that as it may, given who we confess Jesus to be and what we believe about the eternal and cosmic scope of his work, we are bound to hear this psalm as especially and uniquely his prayer. As N.T. Wright points out (The Case for the Psalms [San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2013], 10), “Jesus and his contemporaries would have known the Psalms inside out. Paul would have prayed and sung them from his earliest years. What Jesus believed and understood about his own identity and vocation, and what Paul came to believe and understand about Jesus’s unique achievement, they believed and understood within a psalm-shaped world.”

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at a new depth as he begins his journey into the dark of creaturely suffering and woe. Matthew remembers for us Jesus as he was “sorrowful and troubled” (λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν) in the garden, “overwhelmed with sorrow even to the point of death” (Matt 26:36–38). Mark tells us that as Jesus came to the garden he began to feel “terror and anguish” (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν) and said to his friends, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). In the words of the psalm, Jesus in Gethsemane was “filled with misery” ( שָֽׂבְﬠָ֣ה

בְרָﬠ֣וֹת ) and “bereft of strength” ( אֵֽין־אֱיָֽל׃ ).

Why, we should ask, was Jesus so troubled? Why is his sorrow so unimagin- ably intense? Not only because he knew (divinely and humanly) that he was going to suffer terribly. And not only because he knew (divinely and humanly) he was going to bear the full weight of our sins.11 But also because he alone recognized death for all that it is: God’s enemy, the last, greatest adversary of all God means for us and with us for all creation.12 More than he feared taking upon himself all of our sin-guilt, he dreaded bearing our fear of death.13In some mysterious way, he must have tasted the fear that there is only the grave, that God cannot save the dead, that everything is all for nothing.That “dark” is really the last word. And so in Gethsemane, Christ’s heart enters into the psalmist’s cry: “Do you work wonders for the dead, can shadows rise up to praise you? Do they speak in the grave of your faithful love, of your constancy in the place of perdition?” (Ps 88:10–11).

Hans Urs von Balthasar identifies three aspects or dimensions of Christ’s anxiety (Angst) in the garden, an anxiety that is “granted and entrusted to him to the utmost degree.”14 First, as Christ is plunged by the Spirit into “the abyss of anxiety [Abgrund der Angst],”15 he suffers uniquely as the infinitely pure and righteous one. And just for this reason, he feels the horror of the experi- ence more deeply than could anyone else. Second, Christ suffers vicariously

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But this certainly was one of the roots of his sorrow and anxiety. As Fleming Rutledge (The Undoing of Death [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 134) says, “Jesus had never expe- rienced personally the weight of sin before. He had seen it, grieved over it, and forgiven it—but he had never succumbed to it, had never himself been personally overwhelmed by it, because he alone among all the human beings who ever lived was not a sinner. Now he was about to take upon himself the entire accumulated mass of the whole world’s sin.” Cf. 1Cor 15:26. On what it meant for Christ to recognize death and to fear it rightly, see Ian McFarland, ‘“Naturally and By Grace’: Maximus the Confessor on the Operation of the Will,”Scottish Journal of Theology58, no. 4 (2005): 410–433.

Cf. Heb 2:14–15.

Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 74.

Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 74.

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for all sinners, experiencing “that anxiety which every sinner by right would have to go through before the judgment seat of God and in being rejected by him.”16 He enters into the deepest depths of “sin-anxiety,” descending further than anyone else could go, even into the terror of eternal damnation (timor gehennalis).17 Third, because “the person who in this human nature is fright- ened [sichangstigt] is the infinite God himself,”18his uniquely vicarious anxiety in the garden is nothing less than a revelation of divine love.

It is, finally and most profoundly, the anguish that God (in human form) suffers on account of his world, which is in danger of being lost to him— which, indeed, at that moment is an utterly lost world. So as to be able to suffer this anxiety and therein to demonstrate humanly how much the world matters to him in his divinity and how concerned he is for the world’s sake: for this purpose he became man.19

Balthasar insists that Christdesiredto enter into this anxiety.20“It is an anguish he wanted to have without any consolation or relief, since from it was to come every consolation and relief for the world.”21 Only through the faithful suffer- ing of one who is infinitely good could the abysmal terrors of “sin-anxiety” be overcome once for all. Because of who he is, Jesus suffers absolute anxiety absolutely—and exhausts it.22

The Christ of the Cross

Jesus’s “hour” of suffering carries him from the garden to the cross and into the grave. And so Psalm 88 profiles for us not only the Jesus agonizing in Gethse- mane but also the Jesus dying on Calvary, the Jesus abandoned to death and hastily buried in a borrowed grave. In Balthasarian terms, the cup of anxiety that Jesus accepted in Gethsemane, he drinks to its dregs on Golgotha.23In the garden, Jesus, like the psalmist, stretched his hands out unavailingly to God.24

16 17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24

Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 75.

Balthasar’s account of Christ’s “descent into hell” draws heavily on a reading of Eph 4:6–10. Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 74.

Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 75.

Balthasar references no Scriptures at this point, but see Luke 12:49–50 and John 18:10–11. Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 75.

Balthasar,TheChristianandAnxiety, 75. See John R. Cihak,BalthasarandAnxiety(London: T&T Clark, 2009).

Balthasar,The Christian and Anxiety, 75.

Cf. Ps 88:9.

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On the cross, his strength failing under the burden of the divine wrath,25 he offered up the psalmist’s complaint in his own words as he entered personally into the psalmist’s experience: “Why, Yahweh, do you rebuff me, turn your face away from me?”26

The Christ of Hell

Just as the psalmist feared he would be, Jesus is abandoned by God to death. And so we have to take seriously the shocking truth that on what to us is now Good Friday, Jesus—one of theTrinity—died for us in the flesh.27For Balthasar, Jesus’s self-offering, begun in the garden and climaxing on the cross, actualizes its fulfillment in his burial and “descent into hell”:

This is a state in which Christ’s act of dying is over and now, having died, he finds himself in the situation in which every man finds himself at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. In this sense, Holy Saturday completes the descending, “incarnatory” movement of the Word into the caro peccati. The Son has obeyed the Father’s saving will to the end, and his obedience now takes the form of being dead with the dead. This being dead entails for the Son a real experience of separation from God, the “loss of glory” that without Christ would have been without exception the fate of the dead.28

In fulfillment of his life’s work, Jesus, as Israel’s and therefore the world’s true hope, is, in the language of the psalm, “numbered among those who sink into oblivion,” “left alone among the dead” (Ps 88:4, 5). He is, in the realest sense possible, “finished” (Ps. 88:15), abandoned among the godforsaken. The final, definitive “downward” movement of the incarnational kenosis is “being dead with the dead.”29 And in this utter god-forsakenness, Christ remains as always faithful to the God who has exiled him to the abyss.

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Cf. Ps 88:7.

Ps 88:14. Cf. Mark 15:34.

On what it means to say that God is dead, see Robert W. Jenson, On Thinking the Human (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 12–15, and hisSystematic Theology, vol. 1,The Triune God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 191–193.

Juan M. Sara, “Descensus ad inferos, Dawn of Hope: Aspects of the Theology of Holy Sat- urday in the Trilogy of Hans Urs von Balthasar,” in David L. Schindler, ed., Love Alone is Credible: Hans Urs von Balthasar as Interpreter of the Catholic Tradition, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 214.

For an introduction to other theologians’ treatments of what Jesus’s death means for God,

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The Harrowing of Hell and the Being of God

Obviously, talking in this way forces us to grapple with a swarm of difficult ques- tions. If Jesus truly is God, then what does it mean for him to be abandoned by God? What does it mean for him to die and to be dead? In what sense does he suffer? And what good, if any, do his suffering, dying, and being dead accom- plish? And how does it make that good a reality in which we can share? In other words, what theological and pastoral sense are we to make of the salvific effects of Christ’s experiences? In developing answers to these questions, we need not follow Balthasar exactly at every point; in fact, I am convinced we should not.30 But Jesus’s suffering and dying and being dead do matter both for God and for us, and so we have to find some way to speak about them faithfully.

Hilary of Poitiers, in his account of Jesus’s trials in the garden, insists that Jesus was not afraid of suffering or death. If the martyrs and confessors do not fear when faced with threat of death, how could he? Certainly, Hilary admits, Jesus was wounded—but for our transgressions, not his own. And in the same way, Jesus sorrowed, but not for himself.31His sufferings, real as they were, were nothing but our sufferings which Christ had mysteriously taken to himself in order to save us from them. Ambrose insists that in his humanity Christ had sorrow, because he took human sorrow as his own.

Mine is the will which he called his own, for as human he bore my grief … Mine was the grief, and mine the heaviness with which he bore it … With me and for me he suffers, for me he is sad, for me he is heavy. In my stead, therefore, and in me he grieved who had no cause to grieve for himself … And what wonder if he grieved for all, who wept for one? What wonder if, in the hour of death, he is heavy for all, who wept when at the point to raise Lazarus from the dead?

And amid his reflections, Ambrose offers this prayer: “Not your words, butmine, hurt you, Lord Jesus … you grieved not for yourself, but for me.”32

Augustine, in his exposition of the psalm, offers a similar reading: the Lord took feelings of human infirmity by taking to himself “flesh” and humbling him-

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see Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 197–257.

Not so much because Balthasar’s thoughts are so speculative, but because they run the risk of sanctifying anxiety itself, making it a good by making it beautiful.

De TrinitateX.47.

De FideII.7.

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self to the death of that flesh. He did this not by necessity, but by “the free will of his mercy,” in order to “transfigure into himself his own body, which is the church.” And he did it so that any of the faithful who find themselves over- come with sorrow and pain would realize they were not separated from their Lord’s favor.33 As Rowan Williams explains, for Augustine’s understanding of the Psalms “the meaning of our salvation is that we are included in [Jesus’s] life, given the right to speak with his divine voice, reassured that what our human voices say out of darkness and suffering has been owned by him as his voice, so that it may in some way be opened to the life of God for healing or forgive- ness.”34

Whatever their differences, Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine, and Balthasar are agreed on this: Christ’s sufferings on Friday and Saturday are nothing less than a “real solidarity” with us in our sorrows and miseries. Precisely because Jesus willingly refuses rescue from his troubles, submitting to the worst of all pos- sible suffering and to death, drinking the cup of the wine of God’s wrath to its dregs, he saves those with whom he is identified. “For all redemptive light comes uniquely from the one who was in solidarity unto the end.”35 Jesus’ tor- turous passage into Hades is just the way in which God reaches the darkest extremities of creaturely existence—and nonexistence!—and does the work of opening them up, so to speak, to the light that is the life of God opening itself to us.

Returning to the language of the Psalms, we can say that precisely by enter- ing into the oblivion of the abyss, by making his bed in hell, Jesus carries God’s saving presence into and beyond the limits of the sin-wrecked creation and makes possible the advent of new creation.

Do you work wonders for the dead,

can shadows rise up to praise you? Do they speak in the grave of your faithful love,

of your constancy in the place of perdition? Are your wonders known in the darkness,

your saving justice in the land of oblivion?

So far as the psalmist knew, the answer to these questions was an irreversible No. But Jesus is God’s Yes which overcomes every No. His obedience even unto

33 34 35

Enarrat Ps. 88.3.

Rowan Williams, “Augustine and the Psalms,”Interpretation(2004): 20.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 172.

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death brings about the possibility for all things to be made new. “Trampling down death by death,” Christ effects a whole new order for us and our reality. He not only takes our sorrow, he transforms it. In the words of St. Ambrose, “even as his death made an end of death, and his stripes healed our scars, so also his sorrow took away our sorrow.”36

Performing the Psalms

What would it mean for us, as Pentecostals, not only to consider what the dark- ness of this psalm reveals of Jesus’s atoning work but also how it calls to follow the Spirit’s lead into the heart of that very darkness? The Psalms belong first to Christ, but because he is who he is they belong also to us. He prays them as head of thetotus Christus; therefore, his experience of suffering makes room for our experiences, which we are freed to offer up with him to the Father in the Spirit as “living sacrifices.” In this offering up, we begin to enact the life of Christ with him. Or, as Nicholas Lash puts it, we begin to perform the Scriptures. For Lash, “performing the Scriptures” means living from and in the narrative of God’s redemption, a story to which the organic whole of Scripture gives witness. And any hope we have of rightly enacting God’sWord depends upon our willingness to immerse ourselves in the story, allowing the Spirit to convert our imagina- tion so that we can see ourselves as participants in God’s storied relationship with God’s creation.

Suffering Christ’s Death

Nash has argued that the performance of Scripture is, in many ways, like the performance of a Beethoven symphony or a Shakespearean play.37 Enactment is interpretation. According to this line of thought, a good enactment is one that remains dynamically true to the score or to the script. So, to be a great per- former, whether a musician or an actor, one needs more than skill and knowl- edge, though these are indispensable. Memorizing Hamlet’s lines and deliver- ing them without mistake would not alone constitute a great performance. As Nash says, such a performance could be technically flawless yet lifeless all the same.38Instead, to perform Hamlet well one would have to creatively, imagina- tively “get inside” the character and render him authentically. The same is true

36 37 38

De FideII.7.

Nicholas Lash,Theology on the Road to Emmaus(London:SCMCanterbury Press, 1986). Nash,Theology on the Road to Emmaus, 40.

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of any good performance of the Scriptures. What is needed is holiness, the kind of purity of heart and conformity to Christ’s character that allows for authentic and authentically faithful improvisation.39If, as Lash suggests, performing the Scriptures is the same as enacting the life of Christ, then the key is for us to “get inside” him as he did us. In other words, we baptize ourselves in his Spirit.

Pentecostal Spirituality and the Presence/Absence of God What, then, might a pentecostal performance of the Scriptures be? In a recent and seminal article, Lee Roy Martin has suggested that Psalm 63, with its “intense desire to encounter God and to experience God’s presence,” captures the heartbeat of pentecostal spirituality.40 Martin’s arguments are persuasive, but how are we to make sense of the horrifying experiences to which Psalm 88 witnesses? How are we to be people of both Psalm 63 and Psalm 88?

The contrast between these two psalms is staggering. Psalm 63 is “grounded upon the certainty of the divine human relationship.” Psalm 88 knows only the certainty of death and decay. Psalm 63 remembers the joy of seeing God’s “power and glory.” Psalm 88 finds only a God who has turned away. Psalm 63 boasts of God’s kindness that is “better than life.” Psalm 88 laments the terrors of God, the wrath that daily destroys and devours. Psalm 63 is confident “that justice will prevail, that evil will be punished, and that God’s people “will glory” in their covenant relationship with God.”41 Psalm 88 brooks no eschatological hope, sure that the dead will never know God’s wonders and that the righteous will never return from the oblivion of death.

This is the troubling question: If, as Martin says, pentecostal spirituality is a desire for God and the experience of God’s presence, what are we to make of the fact that we, like the psalmist, often suffer the agony of (at least seeming) abandonment? What does it mean when our longings for God remain unful- filled? Can we imagine this kind of suffering as more than a mere aberration in an otherwise victorious life? Is there a way to claim even the experience of god-forsakenness as an experience in and of the Holy Spirit? Martin is right, I believe, in saying that “if the Pentecostal movement is to maintain its vitality from generation to generation, it must periodically reclaim the spiritual pas- sion that we find demonstrated in Psalm 63.” My question is: how does the

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Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays,The Art of Interpreting Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerd- mans, 2003), 4.

Lee Roy Martin, “Longing for God: Psalm 63 and Pentecostal Spirituality,” Journal of Pen- tecostal Theology22 (2013): 54–76.

Martin, “Longing for God,” 70.

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passion of Psalm 88 relate to the passion of Psalm 63? And what might it mean for the pentecostal movement if we reclaimed both passions and held them together faithfully?

The Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Lament

The truth is that some expressions of pentecostal spirituality are caught up in hyperrealized eschatology, captured by a triumphalist piety that overem- phasizes talk of God’s felt presence and overvalues demonstrations of power. Some in our tradition apparently are seeking a “holy space [where] the time- less truths and universal values of Scripture would reign uncontested.”42Others emphasize “self-propagation through evangelism and church growth through signs and wonders,” not realizing that they have become “oblivious to serious issues in the socio-political contexts” in which they are called to live.43Seeking signs and wonders, they ignore the cries of the oppressed and refuse the Spirit’s call to work for justice. In his recent work, Daniel Castelo reminds us that even where it is not triumphalist or otherworldly, pentecostal spirituality can still be impatient, expecting God to do in a moment what might in fact require a long time and the dynamics of quotidian “everyday” life-in-community.44 What is needed, then, is a reorientation to reality. We need a new readiness to speak the hard truths—to one another, to ourselves, and to God—and the wisdom to be silent when nothing can or should be said.

Lament and/as Longing

For good reason, then, Larry McQueen has insisted that the recovery of the practice of lament is “essential for the re-visioning of Pentecostal spirituality and theology.”45 In the face of the “twin experiences” of “profound loss and

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Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge: Har- vard University Press, 2003), 19.

Allen Anderson, “Towards a Pentecostal Missiology for the Majority World,” paper read at International Symposium on Pentecostal Missiology, Asia-Pacific Theological Seminary (January 29–30, 2003). Available online: http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/aanderson/ Publications/pentecostal_missiology.htm. Accessed January 2, 2014.

Daniel Castelo, Revisioning Pentecostal Ethics: The Epicletic Community (Cleveland, TN: CPTPress, 2012), 75–82.

Larry R. McQueen, Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic (Cleveland, TN: CPTPress, 2009), 94.

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the silence of God,”46 Pentecostals can and must give voice to their sorrow. In Brueggemann’s words, where lament is disallowed or domesticated, “justice questions cannot be asked and eventually become invisible and illegitimate.”47 In fact, “the absence of lament is the loss of genuine covenant interaction,”48 ruining both worship and witness. Recovering lament is a move toward speak- ing more faithfully of God and to God.

If the passion of Psalm 63 is holy expectation of God’s delightful presence, then the passion of Psalm 88 is holy protest at God’s oppressive presence and unfaithful absence. And as holy protest, it is not mere complaint.49 Like Jesus’s own lament, his cry of dereliction on the cross, the psalmist’s lament is addressed to a God who is intimately known and ardently desired. Psalm 88, in spite of its hopelessness, is an expression of desire, a cry of longing for God to do what only God can do. In the final analysis, then, the passions of Psalm 88 and Psalm 63 are one.The God we long for (Psalm 63) is the God who makes the divine longing for us known by entering—more fully than we could apart from God—into the sorrows of god-forsakenness (Psalm 88). And by entering into and passing through those depths, God has guaranteed that our desires shall be met, that in the End we shall see God as God is and be like God in and through that seeing.

Living Christ’s Sufferings

The world needs pentecostal communities that are shaped by the twinned pas- sions of Psalm 88 and Psalm 63, by passion for God that for now expresses itself in both praise and protest—never one without the other and always one for the sake of the other. But how are we to hold these passions together? We should acknowledge, first, that we may in fact hold them together because they were once for all united in the life of Jesus through the work of the Spirit. In Christ’s advent, he not only enjoyed the promises of Psalm 63 to the full—as the eter- nally beloved one, he contemplated the glory and power of the Father (v. 2) in a way no one else could—but he also suffered the sorrows of Psalm 88 to their

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Scott Ellington, Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament, Princeton Theological Monograph Series 98 (Eugene,OR: Pickwick, 2008), xi.

Walter Brueggemann, “The Costly Loss of Lament,” in Patrick D. Miller, ed.,The Psalms and the Life of Faith(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 98–111 (102).

Brueggemann, “The Costly Loss of Lament,” 107.

Lament certainty involves complaint and protest, but it is not mere grumbling. See Han- nah K. Harrington, “Lament or Complaint? A Response to Scott Ellington,” Journal of Pen- tecostal Theology18 (2009): 177–181 and Ellington’s response: “So Much Still to Do,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology18 (2009): 186–193.

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last extent. Now, after Pentecost, he continues to live the realities of Psalm 63 and Psalm 88 in us, who together are one with him. As Augustine says, all the evils described in Psalm 88 “are taking place in the limbs of Christ’s body.”50 We find ourselves freed to enter these realities by the same Spirit who eternally enables his communion with the Father and also empowers him to fulfill his creaturely mission in the church.

To speak of being filled with the Spirit, therefore, is to speak of being opened to the full range of human experience, to be attuned to the manifold glo- ries of God’s work in the world and at the same time to the many horrors of evil, brokenness, and injustice. That is basic to what it means to be filled with his Spirit. Rowan Williams, harmonizing with Balthasar, maintains that “the divine, intra-trinitarian love is enacted and realized” in Christ, and this “incon- ceivable self-emptying” is in no way an “arbitrary expression” of God’s nature; onthecontrary,“thisiswhatthelife of theTrinityis,translatedintotheworld.”51 So, if our lives are filled with the Spirit, they, too, must bear the sign of this suf- fering. In the words of William H. Piper, an early pentecostal pastor and teacher, “the baptism in the Holy Spirit means something more than glory and ecstasy … it is fellowship with Christ in His humiliation and in His sufferings as well as in His glory.”52

Of course,Christdoesnotofferussufferingasanendinitself.WhatJonathan Edwards said is certainly true:

He was oppressed and afflicted that we might be supported. He was over- whelmed in the darkness of death and of hell, that we might have the light of life. He was cast into the furnace of God’s wrath, that we might swim in the rivers of pleasure. His heart was overwhelmed in a flood of sorrow and anguish, that our hearts might be filled and overwhelmed with a flood of eternal joy.

But it is equally true that Christ suffered so that we might suffer with him—and in that way find ourselves conformed to his life. In Gethsemane, on Golgotha, in the grave Christ was overwhelmed with anguish so that we could share in his sorrowing. This may be a mystical experience (such as the stigmata or inner experiences of dereliction). But it also, perhaps more basically, refers to the

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Enarrat. Ps. 88.13.

Rowan Williams, “Barth on the Triune God,” in Stephen W. Sykes, ed., Karl Barth: Studies of His Theological Method (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), 145–193 [177].

William H. Piper, “I Will Show Him How Many Things He Must Suffer,”Latter Rain Evangel (May 1909), 23.

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pain that comes from our awareness of the evil at work in the world, from the suffering that comes to the least of these, the injustice that is done to the wid- ows and the orphans. In that way, if in no other way, we suffer his sufferings with him, sharing in his anxiety.

Finally, then, in the light of Psalm 88, we can see that our suffering in solidar- ity with Christ takes two forms: first, in our own experience of God’s absence— which can come via bodily suffering (such as a prolonged serious illness) or acute spiritual difficulty (aridity in prayer, for example)—and second, in our coming alongside those who are suffering abandonment in some way. Some pentecostals no doubt find this claim difficult to believe. For them, the expe- rience of God’s absence is always the result of either an attack of the enemy or a failure of faith/obedience. We have to overcome this misunderstanding. The believer, Ratzinger insists, is “always threatened with an uncertainty that in moments of temptation can suddenly and unexpectedly cast a piercing light on the fragility of the whole that usually seems so self-evident to him.”53 He provides St. Therese of Lisieux as an example. One “suddenly catches a glimpse of the abyss lurking—even for her—under the firm structure of the supporting conventions.”54

St. Therese’s abyss is not that different from the one the psalmist feared and that Jesus feared, succumbed to, and then overcame by his reliance on the Father’s grace. Though Christ has “already” overcome it, it is “not yet” vanished from human experience. Consequently, we have to be willing to live over this abyss and, as need be, to be drawn into it for the sake of those left to live in god-forsakenness. All of this is possible only through the paracletic power of the Spirit, who sustains our hope that God will make all things right in the End. Until then, for the sake of others and on Christ’s behalf, we have to live in the godless places of the world in solidarity with the God who is with and for the godforsaken. In this way, we begin to become Christ’s body, his contin- uing incarnational presence, finding life together as companions who do not abandon one another to the darkness.

Conclusion(s)

What are the implications of this christological reading of Psalm 88 for con- temporary pentecostal spirituality?What practical changes are called for? First,

53 54

Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 42. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 43.

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this reading calls for a recommitment to authentic speech in our communities about our experiences of God and of one another. If, as Jackie Johns has put it, testimony is how we know each other knowing God, then it is critical in sharing our stories that we refuse formulaic and clichéd interaction. Testimony differs from propaganda in just this way.

Second, it suggests a need to reassess how we measure spiritual health and maturity. If Psalm 88 is Christ’s prayer, then as believers grow into Christlike- ness they must experience god-forsakenness in one way or another. It follows, therefore, that a healthy church community is sure at any given time to have at least a few members experiencing a period of spiritual dryness or undergoing some ordeal of faith. The culture of that community must provide sanctuary for those who are suffering in these ways so they are never marginalized in sus- picion or singled out for pity. Working to develop such a culture will require a full-bodied revisioning of pastoral care and spiritual direction and the devel- opment of pastoral models more truly sensitive to the rhythms, complexities, and mysteries of human being-in-communion and the authentically lived life of faith.55

Third, Psalm 88 suggests the need for different modes and patterns of per- sonal and corporate devotion. Both at home and in worship, whether alone or together, we need “frequent and open-ended opportunities for prayer,”56 time to pour out our hearts before God, to soak in God’s presence. To that end, it would do us good to recover the practices of “tarrying” and “praying through.” When rightly ordered, these practices remain powerful means of spiritual for- mation. In the same way, the spiritual reading of Scripture—and especially meditation on those passages that seem strangest to us—is a vital discipline. We have largely ignored the psalms of lament and the imprecatory psalms, for example, but the fact remains that weneedto hear them, often and repeatedly. As Wright says, they teach us “to worship without pretense, eyes open to the terrible reality.”57

Fourth, this reading calls for changes in our liturgies. In spite of a pervasive fear of formalism and a kind of pride in pentecostal styles of “having church,” we need to receive the wisdom passed down to us in the church’s liturgical and sacramental practices. Following the liturgical calendar, centering the altar call in the Eucharist-event, setting aside time for focused silence in worship, regu- larly confessing the creed, attending to the public reading of Scriptures—all

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And such revisioning must take place both in our churches and in our universities and seminaries.

Martin, “Longing for God,” 74.

Wright,The Case for the Psalms, 72.

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of these are means of grace by which the Spirit forms us into Christ.58 It may prove difficult at times, but integrating these traditional practices with the best practices of our own tradition—testimony, spontaneous prayers and words of prophecy, altar calls, dynamic preaching—is far from impossible and well worth the effort.

Finally, Psalm 88 demands a radical reimagining of our missional praxis. Enthralled to certain evangelical paradigms, many of our churches have nar- rowed the focus of their ministries to “soul-winning” and/or disciple-making, losing sight of the greater commission, which is to live a life of Christlike inter- cession and mediation for all. To be claimed by Christ is to be called along- side every godforsaken one and every godforsaken thing. Christlike, Spirit-led paracletic work takes many forms, including culture-making,59 creation care, attending to neglected or abused natural environments, and social-political engagement, seeking justice through peacemaking, creatively resisting and subverting the forces—the “principalities and powers”—that corrupt or destroy the structures of our life together.60

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See James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Liturgies (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 155–214.

See Daniela C. Augustine, Pentecost, Hospitality, and Transfiguration: Toward a Spirit- inspired Vision of Social Transformation(Cleveland,TN:CPTPress, 2012), 111–138. There has been a surge of research and writing on these and related issues by Pentecostals in the last decade. On matters of peacemaking, see, for example, the Pentecostals, Peace- making, and Social Justiceseries edited by Paul Alexander and Jay Beaman. On matters of ecotheology and creation care, see A.J. Swoboda, “Eco-Glossolalia: Emerging Twenty-First Century Pentecostal and Charismatic Ecotheology,”Rural Theology9, no. 2 (2011): 101–116, and Steven M. Studebaker, “The Spirit in Creation: A Unified Theology of Grace and Cre- ation Care,”Zygon43, no. 4 (December 2008): 943–960.

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