Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. I was surprised when I saw that the reading for today that came from the Grace series was from Lamentations. The book of Lamentations is not exactly an uplifting one. It is mostly as the name says - full of lament. The book of Lamentations is a long poem in response and lament for the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C.E. which was followed by the exile of the people of Israel.
This reading, however, talks about grace in a way that is surprising. This chapter reminds the people that God’s love is steadfast, even in the midst of terrible destruction. This is a word that we need to hear right now. We have been able to relax a little bit since the covid numbers have been low for a while now, but there is new concern about the delta variant. This virus is incredibly contagious, so much so that the numbers of positive tests and hospitalizations are rising quickly. And there have been breakthrough infections in vaccinated people. Recommendations are changing about mask wearing, even for folks who are fully vaccinated.
As I was listening to this news and reading this passage from Lamentations, I realized that we really need to hear what Lamentations is telling us right now. We need to be reminded that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, especially when there is so much uncertainty about the pandemic. The word translated as steadfast is much stronger than just standing by someone. It means to hold close or surround. We are surrounded and embraced by God’s love.
We live with uncertainty every day. We don’t really know what is going to come up to disturb our firm conviction that we are in control of our lives. After having mammograms for years, suddenly you hear that the radiologist has found something on the scan. A parent’s forgetfulness turns out to be Alzheimer’s. Right now, there are folks in many places who have lost their homes, loved ones, and everything they own to flooding and wildfires. These are all major unexpected events that can pull the rug out from under our orderly controlled lives. Sudden tragedy or disaster can also affect how we see God acting in our lives.
Sometimes when our lives are running smoothly, everything going well, we can assume that we are blessed by God. So when something tragic or life- changing happens, as it did with the Israelites, we question God. We might even get mad at God for allowing bad things to happen to us. We hear some religious leaders make statements whenever a disaster happens that begin with – “God is punishing us because of” – using contraceptives, allowing same sex marriage, supporting gender equality, or whatever they believe is sinful.
I am here to tell you God does not punish in this way. In fact, God never abandons us in times of pain and suffering. These words from our reading “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” reassure us that whatever happens, God is with us.
One of my professors at seminary, Dr. Balas, shared the story, of losing a baby grandchild, with us. Someone asked him what he was doing to cope with such a tragedy. He said “I am spending a lot of time with the Psalms.” In the Psalms, you can find several passages
that deal with grief and pain, much like the passage we have from Lamentations – each with the message that God will never abandon
In my personal life, I have found that when I am suffering and questioning God’s love for me, I come to church. I know that in worship I am surrounded by people of faith so my faltering faith can be lifted up and strengthened, just by worshiping with my fellow Christians.
That is one of the reasons we gather here. We gather to hear the Word of God, to receive forgiveness and the sacraments. But we are also gathered here as family. Family who will bolster us and care for us in times of trouble, just as we care for them when they need our support and prayers.
As we leave this place today, remember that you are not alone in your worries and troubles. God is always with you. And we are bound together in God’s love to care for each other and all people who need
to experience God’s love. Amen.