It wasn’t always like this… It was better when… The previous generation… In those days… Once upon a time…
Much of the impetus for the production of scripture was looking back like the Sankofa bird. Looking back to songs and stories that have been passed down. But, not staying in the past. Looking to the past for promises for the present and, hope for the future.
Sometimes the stories to which we turn contain great pain as a reminder that people have endured, if not exactly what we are enduring then, pain, loss, grief and defeat that shares a common vocabulary. In the first lesson, that loss is the Ark of the Covenant. Later in Israel’s history it will be the destruction of the temple, time and time again. In our time, pandemic induced isolation cut people off from their sacraments and sacred spaces. Yet in each circumstance, faithful people found a way to continue, even if it was not exactly the same, it was holy. And God was present.
The psalmist laments such losses, pouring out her heart. She also remembers the faith works of the faithful God and nurtures a kernel of hope. Lament is holy work and does not need to conclude with words of hope. It is valid in and of itself. When there is a moment of hope that is simply grace.
The epistle calls for stitching together the fabric of hope from the tatters of suffering. When possible, it can lead to a beautiful tapestry of faith. But it is not possible in all situations. Suffering itself is not to be glorified. But it is a space in which some folk find grace and that is to be honored and celebrated.
The gospel is set in the midst of devastation, not long after the execution of Jesus. Though that trauma has been transformed by the resurrection, the trauma remains. The crucifying empire remains. The promise of Jesus is that come what may – and there will be difficult days ahead – he is not leaving us orphaned or comfortless. The Holy Spirit will be with us and teach us as he taught us, keep us and, comfort us.