When the World is Falling Apart
Posted in Hope
Scripture: “O God, You have rejected us, broken our defenses; You have been angry; now restore us! You have caused the land to quake; You have torn it open; repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering. You have made Your people suffer hard things; You have given us wine to drink that made us reel.” – Psalm 60: 1-3
I am an ordained Presbyterian minister. I was raised at Eastminster. My parents joined Eastminster in 1966 a few years before I was born. When I was baptized by Dr. Bill Ward in 1969, the members of the congregation made promises to help teach me, encourage me, pray for me, and help ensure that I would grow up to make a profession of faith on my own. Eastminster has always been a church that takes seriously its commitments and promises to its children and youth.
A number of years after I was ordained and was serving the church, Eastminster cared for me in a very different way. I was serving as an Associate Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte and accepted a call to serve a church in Irmo. My last day at Covenant was September 9, 2001. I was not starting my pastorate at the new church until October. My family loaded up in a moving truck and moved to Irmo on September 9. Those of us alive in 2001 will never forget the events of September 11, 2001. I was at the bank in Irmo finishing up the logistics of a new mortgage, and the banker helping me said, “Something just happened in New York. A plane flew into a building.” She led me to a break room at the back of the bank, and we watched in horror as it happened a second time. I went home and watched in shock, as many did, not sure what was going to happen next.
Just two days before, I had left the church I loved that was my home. I left my support network, I left the mission partners I had worked with for years. I wanted a place to pray, a place to gather, a place to unite with other people of faith, to weep and to mourn and, yes, to lament. I found my way to Eastminster that afternoon. The church was opening its sanctuary for prayer. John Frye, a good friend of mine, with whom I had gone through seminary, was an Associate at Eastminster at the time, and he was the first person I saw. John had printed out a resource that contained some Psalms, prayers, and some words from familiar hymns. But also printed in that resource were some selections from a beautiful book called Psalms of Lament, which was written by a Presbyterian by the name of Ann Weems. Weems was a poet and a liturgist, whose son was brutally murdered on his 21st birthday. As you might imagine, moving forward after an unthinkable tragedy was difficult for her.
Today’s Psalm– Psalm 60 –is a lament from the people of Israel. We utter laments when it is the only thing that we can do. Ann Weems wrote her collection of laments, because writing a collection of gut wrenching cries was the only thing she could do.
On September 11, 2001, those of us who gathered in the sanctuary at Eastminster did the only thing we thought we could do: we prayed together, and we lamented to God. I will never forget the open doors that I found that day at Eastminster. Nor will I forget the familiar faces that greeted me. Nor will I forget my introduction to Ann Weems and her prayers from the heart– a hurting heart.
Our faith in God gives us hope, even in the midst of darkness, that all will be made new. Our faith in God reminds us that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. But our faith in God does not free us from pain and suffering and the need to gather with others when the world seems like it is falling apart. That is when we lament to God and share with him the raw feelings and emotions that are threatening to undo us.
Prayer: Merciful God, we know that you can take it when we need to let you know how much we are hurting. You can even take it when we need to ask you where you are. Remind us now and always that you will never leave us alone, but that through grace you are with us even now. Amen.
Submitted by Rev. Stewart Rawson