A year ago I was packing my desk at Church House in Manchester. I had no idea what the next 12 months would bring. For many, the last 12 months have brought big changes even without the impact of the corona-virus; for all the last four months have brought huge changes and challenges.
As we all emerge from “lock-down” – there’s a word we didn’t use 12 months ago – and practise “distancing”, we may have a mix of emotions and thoughts.
First, what we have lost and missed out on, birthdays and anniversaries that didn’t get celebrated as we would have wished, friends we have not seen, and sadly, grief and loss for those who have died, and whose funerals were not the send-off we hoped for. There were holidays booked that haven’t happened.
Many have lost financially, with jobs ended or furloughed, with businesses struggling. This has brought real hardships on families and deep anxiety for the future.
In the Book of Psalms, there are wonderful psalms of praise – the ones we tend to know well, but there are also psalms of Lament, both personal lament, where the person is struggling, and also psalms of corporate lament where the community laments for what has happened. Lamenting conflict, illness, strife, and wondering where God is or has got to in the situation. While the language may seem a bit extreme, in some cases, these psalms of lament are honest cries to God in difficult situations. The psalmist does not hold back in saying what he feels, about his enemies who afflict him, and about God.
We have lost the place of lament in our services and in our worship, and we are the weaker for it. As we begin to gather again in churches we should praise God but we should also make space for lament, to tell God how anxious and fearful we are, even how angry and hurt we are, to say that we don’t know why – “Why O Lord?” We may feel we can’t shout at God, but we can.
Within the psalms there is a wonderful verse – Psalm 56 verse 8 – which says
You have kept count of my tossings,
You put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?
To God our tears are precious; we live in a world of uncertainty and for some, of violence and war. We are made to share joy, but also to feel sadness and loss, but God keeps our tears, keeps a record of our weeping, because it matters to him.
And then at the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation, we read that in the new heaven and the new earth which God will bring in, there will be no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain, no more death, and God, the Creator of the Universe “will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21: 4)
So I hope there are things we can be thankful, for; I hope we will learn from this shaking and upheaval and not just go back to how things were; I hope we have learnt how important family are, friends are, people are, and that we are made for community not isolation. But I hope too we can lament for what we have lost, and also with others for what they have lost, and know God is with us in our weeping as well as in our journeying.
Revd Peter Reiss 20th July 2020