one of the breakout seminars that i got to attend was one on worship. specifically, how can we (people who plan worship services) do our best to help people struggling with feelings of guilt, shame and isolation to feel a sense of community and acceptance.
there were a lot of things spoken of in this seminar that were very informative and helpful. but one of them really took my by surprise.
our speaker was talking about how community is built and felt when we read scripture aloud together. then, he mentioned reading passages like psalm 22 and what a relief and comfort that passage is for everyone at different times in their lives and that it has a place in our sunday morning gathering.
i'm sure i made some kind of quizzical expression as he was talking about this, as i seem incapable of controlling my facial muscles most of the time. here is a bit of the psalm for you. perhaps you'll understand where my questions were stemming from:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
this is not your usual Sunday morning, worship fare. we usually fill our mornings with songs of rejoicing and comfort. not often words of despair.
but oh what a comfort these words have been to me when i've been weeping alone in my room. that david felt what i have felt. that generations of believers have read that psalm and surely had it resonate deeply in their souls at one time or another. what a true comfort.
and for people arriving sunday morning who barely found the strength to walk in the door- who are trying to stand while weighted by stones of guilt, shame, trial, etc.
the psalm continues:
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
how good it is to remember those that have gone before us. when i'm feeling lonely and full of despair- hopeless. it is good to remember those that have gone before.
as i imagined a person standing in front of my sunday congregation and reading this psalm, my initial questions fell away. and tears began to fall instead. because i've been here. i'm sure i will be again. and my friends are/have been here as well, not to mention whole communities of faith that i've never met. what a joy it is that we can declare together, when things look their blackest-- when you feel as though your Holy Redeemer has turned His back, we can say, "remember. we are a community now. we have felt this. generations have been here. remember His past goodness. we are here. with you."
He is so good and kind. what a caring Father to give us this passage. to allow us to speak words of loneliness and isolation to a Father who never leaves- never forsakes. He's so very very nice to us.