St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Monday, June 29, 2020
By Lance Mayes
Psalm 13 (NLT)
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.
The words of Psalm 13 may sound familiar to you. I used this to form my prayer for worship yesterday.
Lament. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the verb lament is “to mourn aloud, to express sorrow, mourning, or regret.” Psalm 13 is a poem of individual lament written by David, probably when he was fleeing for his life from King Saul.
Do you feel these words?
- “How long” is mentioned four times. This deep distress is related to God, self, and enemy.
- “Forget” in Hebrew is to withhold help and comfort.
- “Anguish in my soul” is the opposite of joy
- “Unfailing love” is steadfast love, faithfulness, loyalty, mercy, kindness. It is an essential part of God’s character and should be an essential part of our character as well.
Lament is something we need right now. When our “Stay Home, Stay Safe” plans first went into effect, I thought it was a temporary measure. The pandemic would be brought under control, school would resume, everyone would return to their jobs. Oh, was I wrong. COVID-19 was not consulted and continues to wreak havoc, illness, and death.
We need to mourn aloud to God. We need to share our sorrows with our Lord. We need to express our regrets to our Savior today. I invite you to join me in lament.
Lament. “O Lord, how long will you forget me?”
We are tired of this. I am tired of this. Tensions are high, and patience is low. I’ve seen lots of social media posts shaming people who don’t wear masks in public and shaming people who do wear masks in public.
Lament. “How long will you look the other way?”
The racial tensions are incredibly high. I’ve tried my best to put myself in the position of a listener and learner. Garrett and I had a conversation with Dr. & Rev. Brock, lead pastors at. The Message Church here in San Antonio. (This conversation will air on Wednesday, July 1 at 6:00 pm.) I am working my way through a book called White Fragility. And, our family watched the Netflix documentary The 13th and the movie Marshall. My heart is broken. We need to change.
Lament. “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?”
I am tentative to post my thoughts online for fear of cyber-bullies out there. I’ve posted some. Many people are supportive; a few are bullies. Staying home, wearing a mask in public, physically distancing, and hyper-aware is weighing on me. I don’t think I’m alone in saying this is messing with my head. My mental health is not as healthy right now.
Lament. “How long will my enemy have the upper hand?”
I am angry. But where is my anger directed? Others who lie and gaslight, who deny systemic racism and say the world-wide pandemic is a hoax? Myself who does not do enough? God, who seems to be nowhere? At times, it is all three.
Lament. “Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”
I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’m done. I am ready for the physical distancing to be over. I’m ready to enjoy life without restrictions. I am ready for systems to change that repress Blacks and other People of Color.
Lament. “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.”
My prayers seem to go unanswered at times. I see people post prayers that ask God to prevent COVID from messing with their plans. I see others pray that God would bring protection and healing to those dealing with COVID and that racial justice would prevail.
Lament. “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.”
Psalm 13 helps us lament; it helps us move through our crises of faith and return to hope and trust in God.
I can look back over my life and see the hand of God at work. I can see how Jennie and I prayed for children, and we adopted Nick and Leah. I can see how God provided doctors to diagnose and provide treatment for my cough of over 15 years. I can see how God is at work all around me. I see God providing rain for the just and unjust. I can see how God has changed me throughout my life.
Thoughts and Questions to Ponder
- How long has it been since you genuinely cried out to God?
- What is breaking you right now? Share that anguish with God.
- Rest in God’s unfailing love. Make a list of the ways God is showing love to you today and in the past.
Listen to this song, “Sánanos,” by Marcos Witt (see below). For those who don’t understand Spanish, Google Translate and Patty Villarreal helped me provide this translation. May God bring healing to us all.
We are your people, and today we humble ourselves before you
We are your people, in need of You
We have sinned, we have left your way, your truth
We humble ourselves, our Earth heals today
Heal us! heal us!
It is the cry of this people, humbled before You
Save us! save us!
It is the prayer of your children, prostrate before You
Heal us, heal us
Heal us, heal us
We are your children, we recognize our pride, our mistake
We are your children, we ask you today for forgiveness
We invoke your name today, and we seek your favor
May your light shine on us, to honor You Lord
Heal us, heal us
“The church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is the people.” I learned this little verse as a child and taught it to my children, and, it seems, that it is truly valid today. The church is very present today although it manifests itself in a variety of ways.
To me the church is the aide in a nursing facility who comforts a woman when her family cannot; the anxious grocery checker who keeps coming to work in spite of fear; the singer who sets up a sound system and a stool, grabs his guitar and entertains the neighbors up and down his street every Friday night; the man who has worked at the Lysol factory for 30 years and now has a new sense of purpose in his desire to make others safer; it is the man who picks up his trumpet each night and plays Taps from his balcony to honor the providers and celebrate the dead.
Are these acts being done in Jesus’ name? I don’t know. But they are being done in Jesus’ way. Jesus was never a stickler for “organized religion,” but He was the ultimate proponent of shared kindness and love given freely to others.
So, to me, the church at Woodland is evident in every act of love, every silent or spoken prayer, every note or phone call, every time we give of ourselves to others not anticipating anything in return but knowing that being a part of the love of Jesus in the world today is not only a very good thing; it may be the only thing.
I believe we seek community when we come together as a church body.
One dictionary defines “community” as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals’’.
We gather on Sundays looking for a refinement of the definition of our common goals that are grounded in the example of Jesus. I have become more and more interested in searching for a simple message of what it means to live a Christian life – the “default” when trying to determine what to do, what attitude to take, how best to relate to people, how best to do community.
See John 13: 34-35 (NRSV)
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
That last verse reminds me of the words in the hymn “. . . and they’ll know we are Christians by our love . . .”
The ways of expressing love for one another have narrowed – phone calls and electronic methods now rule the day – but we are adjusting. We cannot yet get together in the ways we would like, but the church endures because we each hold fast to each other through these newly necessary means of expressing love for each other.
Greetings, Church Family. I miss seeing you in Sunday School, in the hallways, and in the pews! I miss your smiles and your hugs.
We spoke easily of our church family when times were “normal,” pre-COVID-19. We knew what “church family” meant. No one had to define it. We were “there” for each other…but what does that mean? Where is “there?” And especially, what does “being there” mean now that most of us are home bound?
Often, people define “family” by their own experience. Families look very different, but are no less…family. Last night, we watched the last episode of Modern Family. Now, there is one big, crazy family, all living right on top of each other! On the other hand, Ray and I have a very small family. Two children…one lives on the East Coast; one lives on the West Coast. Both are married, and there are four demanding careers. Even when there are no travel restrictions, we feel blessed to see them three or four times per year.
This might sound as though our family is not close. (But if you were to think that…well, I would probably be slightly offended. That happens sometimes in families, you see.) Our nuclear family might communicate now more than when the “kids” were in high school, living right under our roof! Now, from one coast to the other, we encourage each other, check in on each other, ask advice from one another, and express our constant and ongoing love for one another. We are still “there” for each other, regardless of the miles between us. We are family. The strong family bonds are not broken by physical distance.
Thank God for technology! We stay in touch with our children and their spouses by phone calls, emails, texts, and the Zoom “family hang out” is the highlight of my week. Well…that and the Sunday morning live-stream worship service.
The Church is described by the Apostle Paul as the “Body of Christ.” Indeed…COVID-19 is stretching this Body. But this disease cannot “dismember” it. We are still “there” for each other. We are still family, in spite of the physical distance between us.
Thank you for remaining an active member of this Body, this Christ-centered, loving family. I know you are praying with me that soon, we will smile, hug, and see one another in Sunday School, the hallways, and the pews again!
Jeni Cook Furr
We are not the first group of Christians who try to define the church during difficult times. Martin Luther, the XVI century great reformer, affirmed that the preaching of the Gospel is essential to the identity of the church. Accordingly, our identity as a church is not found in a building or in a weekly routine. These can be helpful during regular times, but when we cannot be together, we need to remember that we are still a church because we continue to be charged with the preaching of the Gospel. Of course, this includes the preaching of the Word on a Sunday morning, but it goes beyond that. It involves the preaching that we do with words, as well as the preaching that we do with actions. Thus, as long as we continue preaching the good news of God’s Reign as we care for each other through phone calls, emails, notes, text messages, sharing food or financial resources, and as we care for our community by supporting the food bank, providing meals to the needy, and masks to essential workers, we continue to be the church. We may not be together, but if we are preaching the Gospel with our words or actions, we continue to be the church.
Nora O. Lozano
During this time of safe physical distancing, what is the church when we can’t be together?
For me, the church is as it always has been. I’ve experienced first-hand the way this church family bonds together and helps those who need help. When Jim died, I was completely blown away by the response of this church and the comfort it offered me. I have always felt as if we are a family, and at that time, Woodland proved it by its outpouring of concern for me. You have nurtured me through two years of grief and never once have I felt abandoned by you or by God.
The way our staff has managed to carry on in these recent unsettling times has been such a witness to us all. I find the online worship to be refreshing, comforting and inspiring—there are even times when I’ve preferred the online worship because there are no distractions. The creative outpouring has been phenomenal. Our Holy Week services on Maundy Thursday, sunrise service at the pastor’s home with his precious family participating, the flowering of the cross and the joyful Easter service made this Easter a true time of gratitude for the Savior we worship. The staff, deacons and Sunday School connectors have made phone calls and sent cards trying to care for everyone.
Most recently, I had a physical health crisis when I was alone at the coast with my cat. Not one, but four different couples offered to drive to Corpus to get me home safely. After arriving at home, I’ve had calls, offers of food, and gifts of ginger ale and toilet paper! Who knew those would be such appropriate gifts?!? Seeing my friends and fellow Woodlanders standing a safe distance from my door as I gathered my gifts was such a joy.
Most of all, the work we are doing to provide sandwiches and lunch bags full of snacks for homeless people who come to Christian Assistance Ministry for help has been so meaningful. Yes, we are ministering to others, but this is a ministry to ourselves as well. At a time when we feel useless, this gives our lives meaning and purpose. The outpouring from other members and friends of members has been staggering and we have been able to provide meals for up to 300 at a time.
Woodland is indeed my family and we all long to worship together in person again. But our time in the wilderness has made us aware of what a precious gift it is to be a member of this amazing congregation. Our church has no walls.
Gathering together and knowing others care has been my experience of “being church” all of my life. During this time of paused conversations and hugs, I am realizing the joy of quiet contacts by cards, emails, and phone calls. Though I may not see another, the voice of care draws us closer. The text or card says someone took a moment to say, “I am thinking about you.” Woodland with a creative staff and innovative congregation has modeled being present even from a distance. Prayers given and received unite our commitment for the true meaning of fellowship.