“Moan therefore, mortal;
moan with breaking heart and bitter grief before their eyes”
Garry and Marion married in 1949 and had been members at the last church I served for 47 years when Garry died in 2010. The two of them sang in the choir, counted offerings every Sunday, supported every event and had served many terms as elders and deacons. After Garry died, Marion stopped rehearsing with the choir because her voice was not what it used to be. She stopped attending worship and complained that the pews were too hard on her back, the service was too long, the new hymnal too weird. This went on for several months. Her church friends stayed in contact and eventually she was persuaded to come back to worship. It turned out that a simple cushion alleviated her back. She rejoined the choir and she came to love some of the new psalms. It didn’t take long for us to realize that all this was a manifestation of Marion’s grief. Sometimes it’s hard to make that connection.
I wonder how many of our reactions and feelings these days derive from the fact that we are in a state of grieving. Like you, I mourn for the lives lost in this pandemic, the jobs that have disappeared, the businesses that will not recover, the way of life that seems to have changed for who knows how long. Everyone’s circumstances are different and we all stand to lose something. Doing ministry under these circumstances adds its own layers of challenges and grief. I lament the fact that the congregation is scattered and will not be able to gather for the holiest week of the Christian faith or the most joyous season of the church’s year. I share in the anxiety of every leader questioning what the next month will bring.
During these times, we do well to remember that the Church has a long tradition of lament, we are guardians of that tradition, with all its potential for ministry and healing.
N. T. Wright explained it this way: “It is not part of the Christian vocation then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain – and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell.”
As we enter Holy Week, we will seek to experience the presence and healing love of God in a different way. This Saturday, you will receive via email an invitation to join in a simple ZOOM service as we remember the beginning of Jesus’ last week and our Savior’s Triumphal Entrance into Jerusalem.
During the week, you will receive daily scriptures and meditations leading to another ZOOM service on Good Friday and another on Easter Sunday.
It won’t feel the same. And I’ll probably be the first to complain about everything that will be inadequate and disappointing. That may be grief speaking. Through it all, let us allow love and healing to shine in all that we do.
“So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)