Lent 5  Text: Psalm 56

In our collection of 150 Psalms, there are more Psalms of Lament than there are Psalms of Praise … which isn’t to downplay the importance of praise and wonder and gratitude but it is to say that there is indeed a place for lament in our faith.

If ever we imagine our tears or sadness, our crying out to God for help or against God for the tragedy of it all -- if ever we imagine any of that to be signs of weakness or lack of faith, we have only to turn to the Psalms, the prayer book of the Hebrew people -- our prayer book too-- to hear over and over and over again the voice of faithful people pouring out their hearts to God in need and in anguish.

One of the gifts of these Psalms of lament is that they give us the words to say when our own words fail and we are speechless in the face of our raw grief or overwhelming hopelessness.
They give us words to cry out.
And they help us to find our own words, fresh words, that rise up out of our own experience.

Meanwhile ours is a culture that has little patience, makes little space for grief, for sorrow, for desperation. Instead the message is strong to suck it up, to get over it, don’t make so much of it, or deal with it in private. The push is to move on to your happy place. Tears create discomfort … embarrassment. People apologize for crying as though it was wrong or somehow inappropriate to feel deeply.

It’s some years ago now that I registered for an introductory course in Healing Touch at the Naramata Centre. At the time I was heading off to the course I remember feeling ready for a break. But I had no idea how ready until day 2, when I lay down on the table to receive a treatment, and I began to weep, and weep and weep, like there was no end to it. When finally the sobbing subsided, Rochelle the instructor helped me make sense of this eruption of grief that took me so by surprise. In the last few months I had presided at a whole series of funerals for people I had come to love, those people and their families … among them was an especially violent death.
All this grief upon grief had accumulated in my body … none of it had found release until that afternoon.

While how the grief got there is particular to my own story, I don’t suppose anyone of us comes to the age we are without carrying and containing some measure, even great measures of grief.
To be awake at all in our life and to our world is to find ourselves exposed to pain and suffering … our own and that of others.
And yet it’s the rare moment that we come lose … that we let lose … and come to the end wrung out yet still alive … amazed we were containing so much.
So much space within us occupied … so much energy spent on holding in.

Health practitioners, and our own bodies, tell us we need to find another way to work with the grief we experience, all the sorrow and the madness that lodges in our being.

Maybe you noticed it too, in the Psalm that we have today …
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.”
What amazing images for God’s attentiveness to us in our distress.
You have kept count of my tossings … not just bearing with us through the restless agony of our long sleepless nights but you have watched me, watched with me … measuring, registering my distress.
You put my tears in your bottle … what an expression! … I don’t think there’s anything like that in all the rest of scripture. Who would come up with such a thing when tears are for wiping, for drying?!  You put my tears in your bottle … like you treasure them … as though you would hold them.
What is this gathering up of our tears?
Where we would sooner hide them, might be afraid of them, you welcome them … you honour them for all the cost, all the pain, all the life they hold.

This morning alongside this evocative Psalm, I imagined us giving ourselves the opportunity to feel …
to feel whatever maybe bottled up inside us … the grief that has come to visit us maybe only yesterday, or maybe many yesterday’s ago.
I imagined us feeling water running down our faces, tasting the saltiness on our lips … that we might be physically, tangibly reminded of the gift of God’s way with us in our tears … making a place for our tears.

And so this morning you’ll notice 2 bowls of water …
they are there for us in this time, as we wish, to dip our hands and wet our faces.
For some of us it might evoke our own holy tears.
For some of us it might be a way of honouring the costliness of what it is to be human … to bear our God-given capacity to feel, to suffer, to feel another’s suffering …
and to know something of God’s tender care for us in all of that.

And so I invite us in these next few minutes to avail ourselves in freedom to God’s free flowing love.