To the Church in Exile,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s meditation is from Lynne Baab:
God’s peace to you. Doug Kelly asked me to write the daily devotions for Fridays during this strange time. It is a privilege to tell you that as I write this – I am praying that God’s grace will be tangible and real to all of us today.
The psalm for today in the daily lectionary is Psalm 22, which is cited or alluded to at least four times in Jesus’ last days on earth (see Matthew 27:35-49). I’ll give you some excerpts that connect with Jesus’ journey to the cross, interspersed with statements of trust.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Psalm 22:, 3-4, 7-10, 17-19
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
… Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted.
… All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
‘Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
… I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
What strikes me about Psalm 22 is the movement back and forth between need and trust, between pain and thankfulness.
For the past five months, I’ve been living with a quotation from Francis Weller, a psychotherapist and the author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief.
“The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible.”–The Geography of Sorrow: Francis Weller on Navigating our Losses in the Sun Magazine*
In these strange days, while we watch what happens with the virus, we have so much to grieve: people who have died, those who are ill, people with other diseases that get so little notice, the economic fallout, the shortage of masks, the fears that so many experience, and so on. We also have so much to be thankful for. For me, the items in the gratitude list include my husband and family, supportive friends, my home, food on the table, access to medical care, and most of all, God’s goodness.
Loving God, help us recognize the things we are grieving and bring them to you. At the same time, help us to see your goodness and bring our thanks to you. In these challenging days, help us to hold grief in one hand and gratitude in the other. Help us to remember the truths of Psalm 22. Truly you have kept us safe since our birth. You are our wonderful God, and we praise and thank you. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Former Bethany Associate Pastor
Currently a writer and teacher (lynnebaab.com)
P.S. If you’d like some more thoughts about the concept of grief in one hand and gratitude in the other, I wrote a series of blog posts on that topic. The first post is here.
*The Sun Article: The Geography of Sorrow: Francis Weller on Navigating our Losses