My goodness, a lot has happened since my last Bell article! Back then I said that during this Lenten season we would focus on stories from the wilderness. Little did I know we would be entering an uncharted wilderness of our own… It seems like the Coronavirus has changed almost everything about our daily patterns of living. In fact, I didn’t realize just how much of my time was spent out and about until we were ordered to stay home. In addition to these minor inconveniences, I know there are members of our community who have had to cancel or postpone major life events – e.g. weddings, graduations, even medical procedures - due to this crisis. Please know that my heart breaks for the pain these cancelations have inflicted on you.
My original plan for this article was to share some thoughts on our virtual worship services. Instead, I’d like to first address the ancient Biblical tradition of lament. I have noticed that when asked how you are doing, many folks in our congregation are hesitant to express their hurts or frustrations, especially when they think others may be suffering more acutely. To this I want to say that while it is always wise to keep our grievances in perspective, being honest about the vicissitudes of life is a both healthy and faithful practice. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, faith and lament have always existed side by side. Nearly half of all the psalms are expressions of lament, meaning they acknowledge (often in excruciating detail) themes of conflict, sorrow, sin, loneliness, betrayal and hopelessness.
A person who laments may sound like a “complainer,” but lament goes much deeper than a complaint. Lament involves the energy to search; it seeks to comprehend the heart of God, rather than simply react from previously reached conclusions. One of the most famous lament prayers is Psalm 22, which Jesus himself quotes in the Garden of Gethsemane: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? - Psalm 22:1
Like his ancestors before him, Jesus cries out in painful confusion to a God who promised him goodness and mercy. This snapshot from Jesus’ final days is often overlooked in our celebrations of Holy Week, but the authors of the Bible included it in their portraits of Jesus for a reason.
I’ll let you decide why…
As the fallout of this pandemic continues, I encourage you to bring your full selves – the good, bad, and ugly - before both God and neighbor. This kind of vulnerability takes practice, but it just so happens that right now many of us have extra time on our hands. Friends, I am convinced that whenever we go deeper with God - even if it is to protest, questions, or lament - our faith becomes stronger.
Thank you all for graciously supporting myself and the rest of the First Christian leadership during this unprecedented crisis. Our lay leaders have gone above and beyond in their care for the congregation. I could not have made it through the past few weeks without them! Please keep sharing our online services with anyone you think could use some encouragement.
And until next time, be safe First Christian Church!
Grace and Peace,
Interim Minister, FCC of Wilson
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.