In Times Like These

Maybe some of you are like me, stunned, saddened, concerned and even sometimes angered by the news.

 

Daily we are saturated with heartbreaking news concerning mass killings, all kinds of other violence, civil, business and political misbehavior and insensibility.

 

Perhaps you remember a few weeks ago when Conan O’Brien spoke about the mass killing in Las Vegas. His head script counsel had come to him with the words he had spoken following the long list of previous mass shootings…  O’Brien was obviously deeply affected as he again considered what to say… “we’re all tired of hearing reporters, let alone comics, discuss mass carnage in the most affluent and influential country in the world. Something has got to change.”

 

For most, I sense such occurrences are not the sort of daily news we had hoped for. For most… the kind of world in which we’d like to live is much different… one more peaceful and hope not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors. And now… it seems that this vision continues to elude our grasp.

 

Thinking… sometimes saying… “God it’s so painful”… It’s so close (thanks to today’s connectivity)… O’ how our dream of peace seems so far out of reach…

 

Today… The intensity… the in our face awareness of all of this violence can leave us speechless and consequently, feeling helpless.

 

Frequently, when we don’t know what to think or say, reaching for the words of others… songwriters can help us find ways to come to terms with ourselves, the world around us and the tasks that lie ahead.  Their words often not only express our grief and anger, they can also call us back to those truths we hold most dear.

 

Whilst I was thinking about all of this and researching helpful material, a memory of the melody “Finlandia” swept through my audio consciousness… this melody supports a lyric written long ago (in the 18th century), which itself is an adaptation of an older lyric… the 42nd Psalm.

 

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

 

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

 

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (Psalm 42:3-6)

 

As I continued into my time of prayer and discovery, also thought about a lyric from the hymn “When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love,” written by Joy Patterson. The third and fourth stanzas tell highlight truth…

 

Our faith may flicker low, and hope grow dim, yet you, O God, are with us in our pain; you grieve with us and for us day by day, and with us, sharing sorrow, will remain.

 

Because your Son knew agony and loss, felt desolation, grief, and scorn and shame, we know you will be with us, come what may, your loving presence near, always the same.

 

 

So…

Where is our God in times like these?

 

Hear this clearly…

God is here in the middle of the suffering.

God is here confronted by evil and bearing the agony that is evil’s intent but not only as an act of divine empathy.

God in Jesus bears this evil as an expression of defiant love and life.

 

When the lyricist’s words bring us to the suffering of Jesus – a suffering for which these days have increased our sensitivity (we can add every other tragedy and natural disaster of which we are aware), they also bring us to an awareness and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Just as our grieving finds resonance in the suffering of Christ, so Jesus’ resurrection draws our sorrow and anger into hopefulness – perhaps not all at once; we may need to be patient with ourselves.

 

Those of us who sit slack jawed, sometimes not even fully believing the news we’re reading… hearing… seeing… are called again and again and again to the hope that violence and death will not have the last word. For… this last word belongs to life – Jesus Christ has made it so.

 

And so…

With this… having begun to find our words again and in our words, hope… we begin to put the pieces together that will result in action.

 

We pray…

We talk with one another…

We seek to learn and understand the nature of the world in which we are called to serve.

 

Then we again take up our vocations anew and work for life.

Each of us will go at this differently… for, our vocations are not exactly alike… but none of us will do this alone.

 

For… God in Christ Jesus is with us…

With us in our shock…

With us in our concern…

With us in our pain…

 

Together, we who are with the Body of Christ… the people of God… are with Jesus in the hopefulness of life.

 

Yes…

There can be a tenaciousness to the hope of those whose trust is in God.

 

Well, I won’t back down / No, I won’t back down You can stand me up at the gates of hell / But I won’t back down (Tom Petty with Jeff Lynne, I Won’t Back Down)

 

Draw Close, He is Near

 

P.S.

 

Ruth Caye Jones composed this song long ago… It has been a blessing and comfort for many.