Rev. Matthew Spoden

From my perspective as a pastor, each of us — as individuals and as we exist as a part of communities — have a broken heart.

I have seen people’s hearts and spirits shatter over the past year. I have seen hearts shaken in fear by a virus we know nothing about ... hearts break in sadness as their loved ones die from this virus ... hearts turn numb at the continued isolation that agitates and distresses us deeply ... hearts cry out for justice and change ... hearts turn angry and violent towards one another ... hearts creeping closer to despair because we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually killing each other over our differences of opinion.

I am disturbed by the stories in our community about the hateful signs and hateful acts committed against our neighbors that are corrupting the wellbeing of our people. The neglect and inability of people to love and be able to coexist with one another is disturbing.

I myself am struck with the very question I am asked to answer, “Why does faith matter, right now, in 2020?”

I believe with all my being that God can heal broken hearts. That does not mean that I think God is going to snap God’s divine fingers and everything is suddenly good and harmonious. What can faith do in such terrible times as these?

What I can offer is the validation of our experiences, and a reminder of what people of faith are attuned to that compels them to move forward even in dark times. It is okay for us to admit that life has been difficult.

I find myself continually going back to the Psalms because it is very focused on peoples’ articulation of God in the midst of their experience. What I have been reading are the lament Psalms. The lament Psalms are raw and the author is angry and in pain. Take Psalm 13:1-2, “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (NRSV).

The author is in pain, he feels like God has forgotten him, and he wonders much longer he will have to go through such agony. When you are in pain, are lamenting, it is okay to respond to God in this way. When your heart is broken you can let God know it, and ask why God hasn’t done anything about it.

God can take your anger and pain, and it is faithful to recognize God can heal you even if it means calling out God for feeling like you are forgotten. You are not weak for feeling broken and you are not disappointing God because you cannot overcome the immense suffering you are in. Lamenting is a faithful response to God and our experience.

Lamentation is a form of prayer and expression to help validate your experience, but does not give you the right to behave poorly or impact your neighbor in negative ways.

Perhaps we need to lament together as a community, to acknowledge our hurt together, so that we can move towards healing. But this is not the only path we can take.

Followers of Jesus Christ have something that enables us to move forward even in the worse situations, hope.

Quite frankly we need oceans upon oceans of hope flooding over us. In the midst of lamenting we need to cling to the hopes found in God’s promises for us. We have hope that a new day will come, that true healing will happen. Jesus died for the sake of the world and resurrected because through him life will always win.

John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jesus is the light of the world. Faith matters because when I follow Jesus I see light. Hope is seeing the seeds of change, progress, and life begin to sprout. It is with a warm certainty that even if things are volatile and destructive now that this is not the end. Christ’s death is not the end, and the death we see in our world is not the end.

My faith matters because hope spurs me to put one foot in front of the other. When I take communion or remember my baptism I have full confidence that God’s promise of forgiveness and claiming me as one of God’s own children is present now and will be present forever. It’s a promise that secures me in unsecure times, and at the center of that promise is the hope that God is not far away, but breaks every social distancing rule possible to be deeply close to us. If even a small little flicker exists in a huge dark room, there will be light.

My prayer for you is that you may feel validated in your lamentations and that you feel hope in your heart. I pray that your broken heart does not despair, but feels the warmth of hope tending and mending the wounds it has endured. Amen.

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