In the Charles Dickens story “Great Expectations,” Miss Havisham, now an old lady, still sits in her tattered wedding dress, stuck in the time of her tragedy.
But we don’t live in novels. Our lives are real. Our tragedies are real. Real plans get crushed.
The Psalmist laments, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars (some translations say “willows”) we hung our harps.” Imagine the total grief.
I can also imagine some do-gooder saying to the grieving people, “oh come on, pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Sing me a song.” The Psalmist cannot: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”
Have you known that kind of grief, that disappointment? I remember standing in the sanctuary one time, surrounded by a chorus of singers in the service. But overcome with grief, I thought “how can I sing the songs of the Lord?”
So now we find ourselves in a time where our plans have been canceled. Things we counted on have changed. Perhaps we’ve lost a loved one, lost a job. I miss the laugher of fellow church members, the joy of passing the peace.
I tune in for the computer services, but sometimes (just between you and me), I grieve, and I think how can I sing the songs of the Lord?
Our memory is a strange thing. It can weigh us down, and paralyze us for what we’ve lost. Yet, it can also remind us of the countless ways God has appeared and shaped things in ways far better than we could ever imagine.
In the twenty-five years we have been at Highland, the staff has changed, the services have changed, the deacons have changed, the membership has changed, the buildings have changed. Some of the changes were hard. But as I look back, I am so grateful to see how God was moving through it all, not as a waiter checking off the list of my wants, but rather a Creator who is not done, the embodiment of love, working towards an even better future.
So while I lament what I miss, I remain grateful for you, and look forward to see what surprises and blessings lie ahead.
I love the story in Zachariah, which picks up after the exile and the seemingly irreparable devastation of foreign invaders. “Do not despite these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (Please read this quote again to yourself.)
So let us begin anew, and let us remember, as one of our wise ministers is fond of saying, “Whatever the road, we walk it together.”