In my Norwegian-American hometown, we learned to use the word “uffda.” The word has been uttered for years and years, passed down generations. It’s a semantic gift that gives expression to an array of feelings, from alarm to frustration. When no other word seems to suffice, we rely on “uffda” as an audible outlet for feelings hard to articulate. A stuck salsa jar top, “uffda.” Slick roads, “uffda.” Someone diagnosed with a serious disease, “uffda.”
Psalm 31 helps articulate feelings dark with despair and dread. The psalm provides the people of God with a means to express their discontent. It is a song of deep suffering, a hymn of desolation that Jesus learned in Nazareth. His community used it in dark times.
At the moment of his greatest despair, Jesus uttered the words of Psalm 31 to articulate his torment: “I am the scorn of my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors ... For I hear the whispering of many – terror all around! – as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” On Good Friday, on the cross, when all seemed lost, when there was little hope, Jesus cried out, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” In the midst of suffering, Jesus gave himself to God, the “rock of refuge.”
Today, the Holy Spirit leads us to the distress of the cross. We dive into the depths of Jesus’ misery and meet human misery face to face. There is no ignoring the suffering of the world; we see it now as the torment of God. But we have been given words to articulate our pain and a savior who suffers it. Confronting our planet’s violence and degradation, we can speak the language of the cross. And with its words, we articulate the world’s redemption
The Rev. Neal Halvorson-Taylor