psalm 42 retold

[SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams, recently shared this personal re-telling of Psalm 42]:

As a newborn babe cries out for the milk of her mother, so I cry out for you, O God.

I thirst for God, the living God.

As an orphaned child longs to be held by the arms of their parents, I have longed to be held by You.

When can I go and stand before the One who made me?

Day in and day out I taste these tears that fall upon my lips,

And evil endures in ways that confound me, saying

“Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking inside my chest,

It wasn’t always like this.

I can remember a time when the church felt like a safe shelter,

I walked in freely and we worshiped together.

There was space for me and we sang with joy in our hearts, giving thanks in celebration.

So how did I get here?

Why has this pain come now?

I am sick with sadness, it reaches to my core.

Put your hope in God, I say. And I will. I will hope in God.

I will hope in Goodness. I will hope in Love. I will hope in Beauty and in the power of the Human Spirit. I will hope in Compassion and in Mercy and in Justice. I will hope in unruly children and in rebellious youth and in persistent women and in kind men who are willing to change their minds.

I will hope in God.

And I will find a way to praise You again.

But, right now, I am deeply discouraged.

Still, I remember You.

Even from the far-away place of my youth. The Cascade Mountains, the source of the Deschutes River and the land surrounding Cougar Mountain. That is where I knew you first.

But the deepest places in me keep calling out to the deepest places.

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as wave after soul crushing wave sweeps over me.

The tide pulls me out again.

I cannot catch my breath.

And yet, every day of my life, You’ve poured out your unfailing love upon me.

And even through the darkest nights your songs were on my lips.

I have found that I can only pray to the God who gives me life.

O God, You’re the only thing that’s stable here, but still I cry,

“Where are you? Have you really forgotten me?”

Why am I still wandering around in grief? I’m unable to see a path and the darkness laughs, saying, “Where is this God of yours?”

I am so discouraged.

My heart is sick with sadness.

But I will bury my hope down deep into God.

And one day, I will praise You again.

a reflection on a todd’s point sunrise service

[This year’s SSU students saw the sun rise from Todd’s Point, but that has not been a common occurrence. What follows is a reflection that Joel Mason wrote after a foggier Easter morning]

I remember going out one Easter morning with a few friends for an early sunrise service; we decided on Todd’s Point, a slab of rock overlooking the water. We had prepared in our minds vistas of sun and sea salt ricocheting off each other in dazzling displays of beauty and in reverent devotion to the occasion. But even as we plunked through the dark with our flashlights, guitars, and armfuls of firewood, we could tell that it would be a grey and misty beginning to the day. We lit the fire and huddled around its unimpressive flame, waiting for any sign that night had turned to light, that Jesus was anywhere close to exiting His tomb. I remember vividly the wall of fog that slowly revealed itself as the sun was dragged up over the hills, sitting invisible behind grey and white; we couldn’t even see the water. All we were left with was grey fog upon grey stone, our faces quickly following suit as the cold continued. We tried to play some songs of worship to raise our spirits but our fingers grew numb within seconds; We were speechless as the poetics of our time surrounded us: did God really raise Jesus from the dead? Perhaps we are fooling ourselves; we should’ve stayed in bed.

There is no part to this story where the sun comes out; no finale where our spirits are lifted by nature’s kind intervention, proving all our doubts to be counterfeit. The fog stayed with us for the whole day. And this is how the resurrection is to many; we know that it is supposed to be important but we often live with the sense that we are cut off from its depth, truncated from God in the hour when we should be most connected. The crucifixion is easier, at least in the sense that people are tortured and killed everyday. But the resurrection can seem to stand aloof from the grasping hands of our minds and hearts.

That morning, something else did happen. For me, it happened without drama and without organized fanfare. I looked up from the fire to see my friend walking down the rock to the place where the impenetrable wall of fog shot up from the water. In his right hand he held a conch, a shell that you can us and beyond us into the formless mass. It peeled like bells in the wilderness. It was a distress call and a song of praise all in one. It was mystery colliding with history colliding with our small brains, bodies, hearts. It was protest and lament, thanksgiving and stubborn hope. Soon after, we packed up and trod the muddy trail back to our cars and, in our cars, back to our beds.

I want to put my hand in the scarred side of the risen Jesus. But sometimes all there is is my feeble song of faith sounding into a formless void. Somehow, on that day, it was enough. My friends and I had a certain idea of how our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus should be; and it was thwarted quite completely. But perhaps what really needed deconstructing was our idea of the resurrection itself. Perhaps the strange mix of disappointment and joy that sat in my belly as our car jangled and bumped its way home was the realization that we had indeed celebrated the risen Jesus. Can a celebration be akin to a cry against a void? Can something be so mysterious and so explosive that its sound waves escape you completely?

One day the fog will lift and I will scatter song in the full assembly of the sun and sky; but until that day, my heart does not stop singing. It is fired by a sun which shines as well in darkness as it does in light. My song does not have to be a certain melody of clarity and picturesque moments; it can exist, can thrive, can still utter the only refrain I believe when I believe nothing else: He is Risen.

– Joel Mason, St. Stephen’s Prayer Book