Psalm 72: 12 – 14
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
I don’t know about you, but I have really struggled with the idea of neediness. Messages I heard or perceived growing up led me to value self-sufficiency and independence. When I couldn’t figure it out or make it on my own, I felt a sense of shame and assumed that people were judging me. In turn, I grew up being judgmental of those I thought just “needed to pull themselves up by their boot-straps.”
And then my world got up-ended as I experienced struggles that overwhelmed me and I began to really understand the message of the incarnation.
I began to see just how subversive Jesus taking on human flesh, his embodiment, was to much of what I’d internalized growing up. Jesus came into the world completely dependent. Jesus wasn’t born into wealth or prestige. When he was just a toddler his family had to flee for their lives to a foreign land. Jesus didn’t climb the religious ranks – instead working with his father as a carpenter. And when he began his years of ministry people, including his own family, thought he was crazy. He lived off the generosity of patrons, including some wealthy women, during his ministry. Moments of gratitude and respect often came at the hands of outcasts like lepers, tax collectors, women of questionable reputation, and Samaritans. They were the ones who honoured him. As he suffered in prayer in the garden, he expressed authentic pain that his disciples fell asleep, failing in their promises to remain steadfast with him. And he died knowing how they betrayed, fled, and denied him.
This is Jesus – Messiah. God’s power revealed through powerlessness.
Part of what the incarnation reveals to me is my stubborn insistence on being in control and in charge of my own life. Being white, straight, married, educated, with a stable job simply perpetuates the myth that I can take care of myself. I find security in making responsible decisions, working hard, and exercising self-control. I don’t want to see the pride in all of that. I don’t want to be challenged by the reality of my privilege.
Our text speaks of the great need of the afflicted to have an advocate. Because they are crying out. Because there is no one to help. Because they are weak. Because they are in danger of death. Because they are being oppressed. Because they are enduring violence.
Truth is, my need is not that great. My privilege shields me from that kind of vulnerability and desperation. And my privilege enables me to have the capacity to make responsible choices, work hard, and exercise self-control.
But God finds a special place, a feeling of being-at-home, with the afflicted.
Having been called to accompany LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ has been one of the greatest and most needed gifts I have been given. It has painfully exposed the lies I believed, the toxicity of my own pride, and the ways that my choices were refusing the grace of shared life, interdependence, and deeper communion with God, self, and others. And it has also gently invited me to discover a world where authentic sharing of need is respected and honoured, where gifts are both received and given, and where love is not earned or conditioned but given freely.
For all of this, I am forever grateful.
Your tender love and fierce protection of the needy and afflicted reveals what you value oh God. Give us the ability to trust that you are for us, that you embrace us just as we are, and that your love is truly unconditional. Help us to recognize that you created us for relationship, to join in the dance of giving and receiving love. And so liberate us oh God – especially from our own pride and frightened self-sufficiency. Amen.
This Lenten reflection accompanies the Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming initiative. To learn more click here.