Today I don’t want to preach on the miracle, I don’t really want to preach at all.
Close friends of mine currently sit by their newborn son in ICU as he struggles to survive, Hyperplastic Left Heart Syndrome has meant the two week old has had to undergo over 16 hours of surgery and currently struggles for his life. They sit by him, unable to hold their loved one due to the tubes surrounding him and the surgery undergone, praying, loving, hoping.
This week the Gospel story is too much for me.
Why is it this week that we hear these stories?
Why this week do we hear these stories and prayers of grief as parents pray over their child in the slim hope that he may survive.
I don’t want to preach on the woman who was healed, or the child who was not dead.
Instead, I want to give space for the 12 years of grief, of struggle, of prayer the woman had experienced as she suffered and lived as an outcast of her community. I wonder how many times she cried out to God, how many times she felt that she was not heard and sat alone in pain. I wonder how many times she felt that the community around her, and even her God had abandoned her.
Instead, I want to give space for us to hear the cries and the grief of a parent as they deal with the reality of loosing a child. A father who seeks out a prophet, one who has been causing their community a lot of trouble as a last ditched effort to heal his child. I wonder what goes through the mind & heart of the parents of a dying child that makes them so desperate to reach out to this prophet.
Instead, I want us to hear the grief of another, rather than to forget it, quickly bypassing it in the celebration that follows the healing of the child as we are told she is only sleeping.
I would like us to hear the grief of the other, just for a while, to listen to the cries and suffering and to live in that grief, appreciating the struggle that brings you to the space where you risk it all for that last chance of healing, that last hope that your child may have for healing.
The grief & despair and loss of hope that comes with the possibility of losing the thing you love the most.
I would like us to hear the grief of David as he mourns the loss of Saul, the King and Jonathan who he loved as a brother. To hear his grief as he cries it out to the Lord in the knowledge that at least God will hear his grief.
I would like us to hear the grief in the prayer of Psalm 130, where “Out of my depths I cry Oh God.”
Sometimes we ignore the depth of grief and pain of others, because we only want to focus on the hope, the healing, the laughter and joy that comes with realising that the child is merely asleep.
And that turns us into a community that can’t embrace, or live with the grief of others.
It turns us as a community who can only read the scripture primarily as a text of hope and joy, praise and miracles and ignores the voice of grief and lament that the Bible holds within it’s pages.
I would like us to be a community who can meet each other and embrace each other in our grief, in our brokenness, a community where we can share our grief with each other without being told to get over it, to find the silver lining, that God loves us and that everything happens for a reason.
How can people enter into our faith communities and express their grief?
Maybe thats why the gospel reading is bracketed by Psalm 130, a lament which portrays the “proper” way to pray, pointing the depths of one’s self towards God, crying out for mercy in grief.
Maybe that’s why this Gospel reading is bracketed by two different forms of lament in the story of David as he laments the death of a King and also laments the loss of his brother, Jonathan who he loved more than anyone.
Psalms come in forms of praise, thanksgiving, there are also Psalms that come from the depths of our grief and pain, we call them Lament.
Lament is a form of prayer that directly points the suffering and pain of a person or a community towards God in the knowledge that God hears our prayers and takes them seriously.
Psalm 130 is one of the more polite forms of Lament, many other’s aren’t so well spoken and are quite irreverent and angry, many of them are not solemn at all. They’re not solemn because in the depths of our anger and grief we are not concerned about being quiet, solemn or polite.
Maybe these readings are here to remind us that grief is allowed in this space, that questions are allowed in this space, that yelling out in anger to God is allowed in this space.
Maybe these laments are included in this lectionary to remind us that our God is big enough, strong enough, ugly enough and loving enough to take on our grief, to both hear our cries and to take them seriously.
These readings remind us that not only is God able to take on our grief, but reminds us that our community needs to be a community that can embrace, listen and take on each other’s grief. That if we are ever to make a difference in the world that we need to be a faith community where people can share their pain, anger and grief and that we do not shy away from it in fear.
We need to be people who love like God, who pray like people of passion, who love until and beyond it hurting.
I want us to ponder.
When did we last grieve?
When did we pray our last prayer of Lament?
What it would take for us to be a community where Lament is possible?
Is now the time for us to be able to do that?
To remember that God is big enough, loving enough and ugly enough to embrace our grief, to sit with it, knowledge it and to love us through it.
As a nation we are a country who is causing harm to the most vulnerable amongst us, and we need to be a community who is able to grieve over it and name the injustice for what it is, to express our anger and to point it towards God in the knowledge that God hears our cries, just as he hears the cries of those our country is mistreating.
I wonder what goes through the mind of parents and family who face their last chance to escape violence, torture, famine and genocide to get on a boat and make their way to another country. I wonder what it will take for our community, our country to give space for their cries to be heard and for our cries to join with theirs.