“A Sad Song” (Sermon by Rev. Jacqui Lirette of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church)
O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night.
Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.
For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near.
I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.
Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me. Interlude
You have driven my friends away by making me repulsive to them. I am in a trap with no way of escape.
My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O Lord; I lift my hands to you for mercy.
Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you? Interlude
Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.
O Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face from me?
I have been sick and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have paralyzed me.
They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have engulfed me completely.
You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend.
Dear God, this was a really nice sermon this morning. You’ll remember that I’m starting each day of this vacation listening to a sermon before I do anything else. I found this one from our local United Methodist Church in Fredericksburg, Texas. I decided to browse through their recent sermons and I saw this one from Jacqui. I know her and I’ve never heard a bad sermon from her (and the title intrigued me) so I listened. I was not disappointed. She did a great job with it.
So I’m just sinking into the idea that she pointed out: There are not many Psalms like this one where it starts sad and it ends sad. There is not resolution. There’s no offer of joy at the end of the journey. The description at the beginning of the psalm says, “A psalm of the descendants of Korah.” I am not completely sure who they were. The might have been Levites going back to Exodus 6, or they might have been from a different Korah more recent than that. But whomever they were, it seems they knew about suffering.
I am always careful when I talk about my own suffering because I know that the worst of the problems I have are still first-world problems. I don’t know what it means to suffer. I don’t know what it means to not be able to protect my wife and children when they are in my home. I don’t know what it is like to not know where my next meal is coming from, where I will sleep tonight, etc. I haven’t had to go through the death of a child, spouse, or even parent. To be sure, I know people in my own sphere who have in the past or are currently experiencing these types of suffering. The closest I have come is the loss of a child to miscarriage (still one of my worst experiences) and parenting struggles and broken relationships with children. And those were brutal. All of them drove me to my knees and had me in prayer. But they were also seasonal. Yes, in the middle of them they felt like they would never end, and, to some extent, the pain of them still follows me, but they were for a season. There are some lives where this is valley will be the rest of their life.
I’d say the big thing you convicted me about is that I can be too dismissive of other people’s mental health issues. At one point in the sermon she talked about dealing with anxiety and she marveled at people who don’t have it all of the time. Well, I guess I’m one of those people. Even in the midst of people struggling in this pandemic and the heaviness it creates, I’ve been known to say often: “It’s a marathon and not a sprint.” “We need to toughen up.” “We are soft.” “The church is soft.” But I forget that some people can’t will themselves to get there. They are struggling in ways that I don’t understand and I need to just take a moment to sit with them and let them know they aren’t alone. And, as Jacqui mentioned, it is okay to let it be hard.
Father, I’m sorry for missing opportunities you gave me to be your comfort to people. I’m trusting that your plan was beyond my fallibilities and allowed for my shortcomings. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and patience to sit alongside. And when my valleys come, I will trust you. I’ve certainly been through valleys. I remember unemployment and crying out to you (yelling at you?). So know the pain of uncertainty, and I am sure I’ll experience it again. Thank you for being faithful to your people in all things.
In Jesus’s name I pray,