Last Sunday, we continued our summer gatherings in the park! It’s been so wonderful that we’ve had great weather every Sunday we’ve met!
I was sharing Psalm 139
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Us Commoners are an eclectic bunch! We have come from such different walks of life which is the true beauty of our community. There are a lot of us who have been through some really tough and challenging times. It seems to me that whenever I have shared messages that touch on more dark and difficult themes that I receive the greatest feedback that people resonated with the message and felt God’s presence in it.
So on Sunday , I wanted to discuss God’s presence in those dark and difficult times. How do you see God in these times? Is He sitting beside you and weeping with you? Or is He far away from you? Some of us see Jesus’ arm tightly wrapped around our shoulders. Some of us see God sitting with us and the image of the sun poking through the trees. Some of us see God when we light a candle … light amidst darkness and moving with us.
I shared some readings from God on Mute by Pete Greig. Here is a quote he shares from a rabbi who lost his son to a chronic disease at the age of 14.
I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counselor because of Aaron’s life and death than I would ever have been without it. And I would give up all of those gains in a second if I could have my son back. If I could choose, I would forego all the spiritual growth and depth which has come my way because of our experiences and be what I was fifteen years ago, an average rabbi, an indifferent counselor, helping some people and unable to help others and the father to a bright, happy boy. But I cannot choose.
It is true that we can be refined by suffering which is comforting when we experience minor trials. But when our loss or struggle is profound, we’d give it all back to gain what was lost. We need God. It is fascinating that “in times of intense vulnerability we instinctively reach for the Father’s hand. Trauma itself rarely creates a crisis of faith” (Greig). In these times, if we are honest with God and forget any pretenses, it helps us commune with Him better than if we try to be something that we are not in that moment.
A lot of my reading in preparation for Sunday touched on the age old question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” Is it because of our own sin, others’ justices, a lesson on perseverance or faith. Is it all part of God’s plan? Or is it because we have free will?
We broke off into groups to discuss two ideas …
- What is the interplay between fate and free will?
- Both faith and reason discover truth, a conflict between them being impossible since they both originate in God.
There was some great discussion and I encourage you to continue it here online.
These are tough concepts to reconcile. Two honest prayers were shared this night and here they are:
O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Abba Father, I know all this stuff about Your love in my head, but my heart gets hard to it and I’m tired. Please do whatever You’ve got to do (and I mean whatever) to unclench my fists. Pry open my eyes so that I can see Your tears and soften my heart so that it moves me deeply. I don’t understand why You don’t just answer my prayers, but I do choose to trust that you have heard me, that You actually do care and that You’re somewhere out there on my case. Abba, Father, thank You for all the ways You have blessed me. I honestly don’t know what I’d do, where I’d be or even who I’d have become without You. Abba, Father, I am going to try to trust You today. Amen.
Amidst the dark times, we can always see glimpses of light. Throughout the gathering, we shared some “awesome things” from one of my favourite websites (and books)
#647 When batteries are included
#936 Perfect parallel parking on the first try
#621 Staying up past your bedtime when you were a kid
We used sidewalk chalk to list of our ‘awesome things’ on Elgin st
We ended the evening with a song I like to sing often. But I find it extra fitting on this day: