The Rev. Dr. Brenda Pelc-Faszcza is the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Canton Center, CT and a lecturer at Yale Divinity School.
Scripture: Psalm 22:1-2 (NRSV)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest….
Reflection: Then Who Is God?
So, is anyone feeling godforsaken these days?
I’m guessing that if we are, we’re not alone.
I recently said to a friend, “All the news is bad.”
Of course, not ALL the news is bad,
but that day, it felt like all:
raging storms that have left huge, heartbreaking damage in their wake;
the end of a 20-year war in Afghanistan
that leaves huge, heartbreaking damage in its wake;
a pandemic that endures and continues to demoralize, disrupt, and demand,
overwhelming health care systems all over again,
and still a good number of people who won’t avail themselves
of the only defenses we have, only to make this all last longer;
stunning political dysfunction you wouldn’t think could get any worse;
millions still in economic hardship because of …so many things.
And in my personal world, my daughter's best friend
suffering the debilitating effects of ALS disease at age 30.
It’s enough to make it hard to stand up in pulpits and say “God”
when you’re fairly sure that what most people think you mean by that word
is an almighty, all-powerful, puller-of-strings, causer-of-everything.
If that’s who, what, we still think God is,
there will be, I surmise, plenty of “Why have you forsaken us?”
to go around right now.
Psalm 22, from whence comes the familiar line about forsakenness,
is not one we use often in worship.
In fact, when people hear it, they’ll immediately think Holy Week,
since it lies behind the construction of the Markan and Matthean versions
of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion,
and will wonder why we’re reading it when it’s not Holy Week.
But this year, it also shows up in the lectionary in October,
which is as good a time as any to reckon with what can feel like
the silence of God in the face of creation’s suffering.
The best thing I have ever read on that subject
is Barbara Brown Taylor’s When God is Silent.
As a preacher, she is exquisitely aware of the burden of preachers
to have words, many words, for everything,
and of the equally pressing responsibility not to say them all;
to exercise a holy reticence that helps all of us,
preachers and hearers alike, to be able to hold in silence
the mystery of God, whose ways are quite obviously
not our ways;
to point, by our restraint, to a God beyond our understanding and language,
(though not beyond our experience),
whose nature seems to be something other than
what we (or others) have so often said it is.
Okay, if God is not the author of the floods, fires, earthquakes, diseases and wars,
the one who could swoop in and fix them all but doesn’t,
then who is God?
To keep being able to ask that over and over in times of crisis,
and especially each time some previously cherished answer slips and falls,
seems to me to be at the heart of what faithfulness is.
We’re better guides for others when we can show
we’re up to this task ourselves.
Fellow preachers, we have extraordinary responsibility and opportunity
As Brown Taylor puts it,
“Our job is not to pierce the mystery with language but to reverence it….
to have the good sense not to say what cannot be said.
Say only what we know to be true, say it from the heart, and sit down.
…With this understanding, what may feel like the failure of our speech
is not something to be dreaded but to be hoped for.
It means we have encountered the transcendent God.”
Ground of love and Source of all, may we learn to refrain from over-explaining you. May we practice enough restraint in our own cherished explanations of everything to be able to wait, watch and glimpse more of what you truly are and are not. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the victims and their families of the 535 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For the families and friends of the nearly 700,000 who have died due to the Covid-19 disease.
- For those impacted by a pipeline breach in Southern California where thousands of gallons of oil have spilled into the Pacific Ocean, impacting the Talbert Wetlands, closing beaches and washing ashore dead wildlife
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the sights and smells of autumn in New England, the fall foliage shift, and harvest fairs
This Week in History:
October 7, 2001 (20 years ago) In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. begins an attack on Afghanistan. The intense bombing raids, executed by American and British troops, was the beginning of a war on Taliban forces that would span 20 years and include a long man-hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in May 2011. In August, only days after the U.S. recalled troops from Afghanistan, Taliban militants seized control of much of the country.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”