Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Lament. The longer you live, the more you will pray these prayers. Life is hard, and relationships are difficult. Our church is in the midst of some lament. We are grieving the loss of pastors and friends. I’ve heard so many times in the past few weeks “This is not an end, it’s a beginning.” And that it true, but we must also do the difficult work of saying goodbye, grieving our losses, and embracing the pain that is present in such separations.
I really believe that some of the most messed-up people I have ever had to deal with were people (and churches) who tried to by-pass grief. Grief is a valley that must be shlogged through. It is very difficult work, but to go around it is to court mental dis-ease.
That’s my prognosis as the spiritual physician in this place. I was encouraged to not use this Psalm as my preaching text for my final Sunday, but I think it is important. However, it is not the end. So I’ve changed the reading to the end of the Psalm. We pick up at the very end of the lament. This Psalm is so loaded. It is the Psalm that the disciples remembered when Jesus cleansed the temple. “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (Psalm 69: 9). At the crucifixion of Jesus they recall verse 21 “for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” This is, in fact, a sad place.
But it does not end there. The Psalmist is able to look up and praise God. Notice that the Psalmist does not do this after they have been saved. It is in the midst of a very troubling time of betrayal and humiliation that the focus changes. After crying out to God the very real pain, the Psalmist is able to entrust their life to God and THEN they are able to praise God. “I will praise the name of God with a song”.
The final word is one of dwelling and future generations. David has received God’s assurance that someone from his family will continually sit on the throne of Israel. His decedents will live in the city forever. This is the three-fold pattern of lament. It is a stark and realistic cry to God of the pain in which we find ourselves living. It moves into a word of trust for God, and praise of God’s work in the world and finally moves onto trust and hope in the next generation.
My father use to say that it was silly to leave a church because of a pastor. “Pastors come and go” he used to say. (He waited one out for over 25 years!) My father knew that churches are made up of faithful people who have dedicated themselves to praising God, providing fellowship to one another and to others, and to working in the world to help those in need. Pastors help to lead those things, but they are carried out by the church–by the people of God. It has been my great privilege to walk down difficult paths with many of the people of this church. It has also been my joy to celebrate the good things that have happened here. I’m going to grieve not being a part of this community any longer. It is indeed a special place doing wonderful things, so I’m sad to have to leave. But I know the wonderful things we are doing will carry on, and I give God thanks for that and for the years that Robin and I have been able to walk with you.
Quotes for the Week
“I was tired of well-meaning folks, telling me it was time I got over being heartbroke. When somebody tells you that, a little bell ought to ding in your mind. Some people don’t know grief from garlic grits. There’s some things a body ain’t meant to get over. No I’m not suggesting you wallow in sorrow, or let it drag on; no I am just saying it never really goes away. (A death in the family) is like having a pile of rocks dumped in your front yard. Every day you walk out and see them rocks. They’re sharp and ugly and heavy. You just learn to live around them the best way you can. Some people plant moss or ivy; some leave it be. Some folks take the rocks one by one, and build a wall.” Michael Lee West
“Someday you will wake up feeling 51 percent happy and slowly, molecule by molecule, you will feel like yourself again.” Amy Poehler
The only way to overcome the grief is to go through it!” Dr Paul Gitwaza
And, finally, the Anne Lamott Section:
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
“You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”
“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town”
Lesson Psalm 69:28-36
Strike their names from the list of the living;
No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.
29 I’m hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.
30 Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.
32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!
33 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.
34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.
35 For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.
Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?
36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.
Questions for the Week
What are some of the “rocks of sorrow” piled up in your front yard? How do you deal with them?
What is one thing about the future of the church that fills you with hope?