One hundred and fifty songs make up the collection we call The Psalms. The Hebrew word for psalms can be translated as “praises,” but it is interesting to note that many of the songs included in The Psalms are songs of lament and complaint. Like country western songs and singing the blues, the psalmist sings of life as we know it, a life that can be messy and disappointing and frightening and tragic. The Psalmist weaves it all together with phrases like how long, oh Lord, how long can this keep going on? Why me, Lord? What have I done to deserve this?
Walter Brueggemann, in his book Praying The Psalms, suggests that The Psalms reflect two very basic movements in everyone’s life: one the move into the “pit,” when our world collapses around us and we feel that there is no way out of the deep hole into which we have sunk, and the other the move out of the pit into a welcome place. We suddenly understand what has happened and who has brought us up out of the pit.
The last eight weeks have been filled with reasons for lament and complaint: powerful hurricanes and earth- quakes, raging forest fires, and an unexplainable mass murder on a summer day in Las Vegas. Even though we were not directly affected, we feel the loss and pain of those who have lost so much. Yes, we understand full well what it means to have the world collapse around us.
But what about moving out of the pit? What about the moment we realize that all is not lost, that hope has a stronger voice than despair? In a recent email, Bob Conover, Executive Presbyter of Redwoods Presbytery, reported on the needs of those in the Santa Rosa area. He said, “We have approximately 80+ church families in Redwoods Presbytery who have lost their homes. Fifty- six of those are from First Presbyterian Church, Santa Rosa. There are many others who have lost income and businesses. We are here not only for our own; we are here for all. ‘For God so loved the world.’ The world is our family. The world is God’s family. We know this in Redwoods.
“Last Sunday, an elder who has served Redwoods in very powerful ways and who lost absolutely everything in the fire, came to me. He put both hands on my shoulders, looked me squarely in my eyes and said, ‘Bob, I am going to be fine.’ My eyes were filled with tears. His eyes were filled with hope.”
This email touched me deeply. It reminded me that we, the Church of Jesus Christ, have great power in this time when so many find themselves in the pit. God has given us the opportunity to be bearers of hope. We do this in so many ways: sometimes simply by walking alongside someone who is in despair, and at times we give witness to our hope in steadfast silent intercessory prayer. We do this by listening to others when they need to lament, without offering suggestions or solutions, just by listening. We help one another move out of the pit into a welcome place, the place where we are aware that God abides.
I have mentioned to several of you lately that I feel more hopeful about the church than I ever have in my ministry. I cannot put it into words. It has to do with a feeling, a sense that the welcome place that we provide is unique in this 21st century. To borrow a phrase from Bob Conover, “We are here not only for our own; we are here for all. The world is our family. The world is God’s family.” We know this at Covenant! And so my refrain continues to be: Invite someone to Come and See!
Come and See what it means to walk with a faith community.