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Beyond the Pulpit

July 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome to the back half of 2020.   We have endured a bizarre, if not tumultuous, first  six months.  No need to list all the ways the world has been tossed and turned, and in  many ways shredded.  Who could have guessed?  Though we all hoped there might be a return to some measure of normalcy, that doesn’t seem likely.  As I write, there is a spike in cases of COVID 19, leading to discussions of stepping back from plans to reopen the economy. The racial prejudice, tensions, and divisions we have sought to over- look have been laid open, causing anger, demonstrations, and outcries for justice.  But to this, I have some hope for a renewed effort to seek real peace and civil righteousness in our country.  And yet, these challenges are amplified by what is possibly an historic lack of trust in government, media, and just about every other institution in the nation.  And this is just here at home.

Tensions around the world between nations are rising, threat of the global pandemic which has led to deepening distrust and economic disasters.  Now to these are added natural disasters, a growing threat of hunger and famine, and an increase in the ever-present threat of war.

Oh yeah, and its and election year.  Many believe this up-coming election is going to be one of the ugliest in history.  And as a student of history, that is truly saying something.

And to make it all worse, I miss my church family.  Phone calls are great, zoom and Facebook live are fun, but I miss being present with you all.  As we trickle back to church, and small meetings begin to happen, I am encouraged, but it just isn’t the same.  I miss shaking hands and sharing hugs and its hard to see a smile hidden behind a mask.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Certainly, these are dark days, filled with confusion and difficult questions.  Often lately I find it hard to find the words to describe what I am feeling.  And thus, I find myself rediscovering the Psalms, particularly the Psalms of lament.  The people of God have faced dark days before, and I am sure we will in the future.  Although I am really interested in the present.  And so yes, these Psalms are giving me some consolation.  They remind me I am not alone in my concern, nor left alone by God.

The Psalms of Lament cry out to God from places of deep despair and distress.  They call on God to rescue us from sorrow, suffering, loss, failure, and from enemies.  And end in a statement of trust in God.

One that has spoken to me lately is Psalm 12 (NRSV):

‘Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind.
 They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,
 those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own—who is our master?”
 “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord;  “I will place them in the safety for which they long.”
 The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
 You, O Lord, will protect us; you will guard us from this generation forever.
 On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among humankind.’

It has been said by many people, including myself, that these days have given us the opportunity to re-examine our priorities, and that is certainly true.  Perhaps they are also the opportunity to rediscover the parts of Scripture we tend to over-look.

I encourage you to look again at the Psalms and find there the words that speak to you, and perhaps for you, as we endure these difficult days.

May the blessings of God, the peace of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Mitch