Scripture has much to show us about the presence of God in the midst of our loss. As we received the announcement this week from our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving, that public worship would be suspended through April it hit me that we are not going to be together for quite some time. In all likelihood it will be on into May, or perhaps longer, until we can gather again in the same space to worship God together. This is no doubt difficult news for many of us as we absorb this loss. Yet, sisters and brothers, we will find in scripture nourishment and strength for the times we are now faced with.
We have in scripture many examples of lament. In Isaiah 35, we can hear the suffering all around the author despite the steadfast faith expressed in God calling God’s people to return to Zion. Psalms 42 (which I commend to you for spiritual nourishment during this time) and Psalm 43 express deep hurt and longing for the day God will again restore order in the world. Often in lament there are violent feelings expressed, take for example Psalm 137. Yet all of these examples (and there are many more) are found within our scriptures. It is times like these that we find ourselves lamenting our losses and our circumstances. This lament is good and holy, and deeply cathartic. The violence often expressed is simply the naming of emotions and enables us to discover the intensity of the hurt we are feeling. This naming allows us and God to do something with our pain. Without lament there can be no true, authentic covenant relationship with God. Think about your relationships with loved ones, it’s not always happy feelings; this is what makes us human and this is what invites us into deeper relationship with God. Lament can help us during times like these, especially when we as a community are feeling this loss together.
A true lament, however, is not without hope; the examples above all end with hope in God. A lament states the reality that things are not right and we are beginning by asking God how we can begin to make them better. So that loss you may be feeling, I invite you to hold on to it. Let us not rush to remove those feelings from our lives; they are real and they help guide us during times like these. What losses are you experiencing today? Name them. Invite God into that space with you. Our hope today is that we know this time will pass.
One of the great losses for me during this is the loss of the Eucharist in our weekly practice during this time. But I find myself often thinking about how wonderful that first Eucharist will be where we are together again at St. Paul’s, and longing for that time. That longing I feel, and perhaps you do as well, is the incarnational hope that God has given us. I know one of the losses many of you are feeling is the loss of the sacrament in our weekly worship also. I invite all of us to name that loss and to sit with our longing. I know this can be difficult, but I believe it is a deeply hope-filled practice, that longing and hunger reminds us evermore that we are connected to God, longing for the day the New Creation comes; where there will be no suffering or loss, no more injustice or pain. That first Eucharist back together will be, as each one before it has been, a foretaste of that heavenly banquet.
Let us not lose hope during this time. God is still with us, and Jesus is still present among us through the Word that we ourselves can read, touch, and digest. From scripture we too are nourished and fed. From it during this time may we all find hope.