Thursday, December 16th
December 16th Lectionary readings: Psalm 80:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:10-18
"People with little or no patience for communing with stones, flowers, pets, or human beings will probably not have much more patience communing directly with God." ~ Father Richard Rohr from What the Mystics Know
I love the Psalm for today as it captures honestly the human struggle of being in relationship with God. The Psalmist says, “You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us” (Psalm 80:6). Then later writes, “Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved”(80:3). So often we stand before God with our struggles, unsure how we ended up in this place of pain and suffering. If we are honest with ourselves, we wonder how God could love us and yet let us suffer. We call out, “Save us from broken relationships, addiction, sickness, death, and not having enough! Make your face shine on us that we may be saved!”
If you are like me, you know in your mind that God is not punishing us when bad things happen. As Rabbi Harold Kushner says, “Bad things do happen to good people in this world, but it is not God who wills it” (When Bad Things Happen to Good People). The world is complex and at times unpredictable. Surely God did not cause that accident or force that earthquake or make that person shoot another. And yet... I know the honest cry of the soul. I know the cry of the mother who has lost a son. Why, God? I have witnessed the suffering of the husband who loses a wife. I know the pain of watching a loved one go down a path that only leads to destruction and they cannot be stopped. Where are you God?
Advent is a season in which we are invited into those dark places in the world, in our churches, and in our souls as we join the Psalmist asking for God’s face to shine on us. So how do we do this? It can be so difficult to face the pain! There is a story in Richard Rohr’s book, What the Mystics Know, in which a boy asks a Rabbi how to love God. The Rabbi teaches the boy that loving God begins by loving a stone until its “goodness and beauty come into you”. Next work on loving flowers, your dog, and then other people. When we can be present to what is, God will arrive showing us God’s goodness and beauty. After all, God is written on our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:33).
All of us are chosen by God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. By being present in the brokenness and the beauty in our world, God will show up. It is the season of waiting. But the Good News is that God’s arrival has nothing to do with our ability to meditate properly, understand the scriptures sufficiently, or to be “righteous”. The promise of this season is that God shows up despite our foibles, our confusion, and our doubts - not because of our merit. God shows up because God’s love for us and this world trumps everything else. May this Advent season for you be a time of healing as we wait together for God’s hope, peace, joy, and love. Amen
Reverend Audrey Connor
Chaplain, Columbus, Ohio