Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Joy and Sorrow Meet

Once again Easter has come and gone. The excitement of Holy week building up to the celebration of the resurrection has for many of us begun to fade from our memories. The realities of work and the diversion of the April school vacation creep in and quickly refocus our attention. However my mind is still preoccupied with Good Friday. My husband and I attended a Good Friday service at a church of one of my pastoral colleagues. There were many familiar faces in attendance and one in particular captured my attention. This particular young man and his wife used to serve at the daughter church of my former home church in Douglas, MA. At the time he was interning while completing his seminary education. He met his wife while interning, they married, and had a daughter. Subsequently after graduation, he moved on to pastor a church in Grafton, MA. While serving in Grafton, I heard he and his wife were expecting a second child, a little boy. However, the news that followed shortly thereafter was not good. The couple were informed that there were serious problems with the pregnancy and the child would die shortly after birth. As is typical in these situations, the couple was given the option to abort rather than carry the child to full term. However this young pastor and his wife refused to terminate the pregnancy and trust the situation to the Lord. Over the course of the nine months myself and many others prayed for a miracle. The baby boy was born but as predicted, he died within a few hours. This is one of those situations where the "why" question pops up. It reminded me of a sermon I preached on Psalm 42. It is one of the many so-called "psalms of lament"in the Bible. In psalms of lament an individual or group cries out to God for help. The church has often been criticized for not acknowledging these types of psalms for they speak to the hurts and questions of the community of faith. Many times we tend to focus on the "happier" psalms that rejoice in the Lord. But there are those dark moments that we all experience throughout life where we need some answers from God and Psalm 42 reflects that longing. In the midst of his struggles the psalmist repeats a key refrain, "Why are you downcast , O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:5,11) In between these two verses the psalmist also proclaims, "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me---a prayer to the God of my life." (Psalm 42:8) Certainly, this couple had good reason to be downcast but they decided to hope in the Lord. Even though their prayer was not answered as they desired, I believe they had a sense that like the psalmist they would "yet praise Him, their Savior and their God." On Good Friday they came to the service holding a double blessing from the Lord, twin baby boys! I was told that a year to the day after they buried their little boy, the twins were born. God not only gave them a son but multiplied the blessing twofold. It is reminiscent of Job and all the sorrows he endured. After all was said and done we are told that, "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first." (Job 42:12a)  Why this couple or Job went through their experiences is not clear. However, Psalm 42 is a reminder of joy and sorrow meeting together and in the midst of trouble lies the mystery of God. One of my favorite contemporary Christian groups, Avalon, sums it up best in one of their CDs entitled "Stand", "There is a place where hope remains in crowns of thorns and crimson stains. And tears that fall on Jesus' feet. Where joy and sorrow meet."
To God Be The Glory!
Pastor Sheree

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