The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


A Psalm of a Thirteen-Year-Old

Do we lose something on this side of Spiritual Puberty?

by Russell Rathbun

Psalm Reading:  Psalm 13

For Sunday, June 26 , 2011: Year A – Ordinary 13

The Psalm for this week is short, repetitive, irrational, moody, mooning, blaming, pleading, heartbroken, heartbreaking and perfect.

Is it an accident that Psalm 13, assigned for Ordinary 13, seems to be written by a 13-year-old? Not to mention that it seems, somewhat, a companion piece to Alex Chilton’s song, Thirteen.

Won’t You?

Chilton’s 13-year-old protagonist repeats the implorative phrase, won’t you? It is full of pleading, near desperate expectation.

Won’t you let me walk you home from school?

Won’t you let me meet you at the pool?

Maybe Friday I can, Get tickets for the dance,

And I’ll take you, ooo ooo ooo.

Won’t you tell your dad get off my back? …

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of?

Would you be an outlaw for my love?

If it’s so then let me know, If it’s no then I can go,

And I won’t make you, ooo ooo ooo.

How Long?

At the other end of that naïve hope, where tender teenage disappointment is inevitable there is Psalm 13. David’s 13-year-old protagonist repeats the lamentative phrase how long with the same desperate expectation.

How long will you will you ignore me? Like, forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long will I have to have you in my head and breaking my heart?…

Look at me! Answer me! Oh My God!

I swear I am going to kill myself!

With the hormones raging David’s 13 year old cannot control him self. There is a beauty in unchecked love and unchecked sorrow, the visceral emotion you feel burning in you veins. David feels this for God.

Pentecostal Flirting

In my young Pentecostal flirting days I remember feeling passionate love for Jesus. I don’t know if I ever felt, throw-things-and-threaten-to-kill-myself, mad at him. Oh, I guess there was one time. There is something desirable about that kind of completely consuming, out of control emotion. Most people learn how to bridle those impulses and then loose them completely. Thank God, we have David and Alex Chilton to remind us what it was like.

Would you be an outlaw for my love?

Who talks like that?

The Hardest Question

Do we lose something on this side of Spiritual Puberty?

Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.


  1. Jeff says:

    Boom! Good read. In fact, I had to read the text over again to capture what you are saying. Wow, I can easily see a sermon, celebrating the faith energy of our youth. Can we (should we?) be as bold with God as this psalm suggests? Good insight.

How do you read?