Toorak Uniting Church

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Sick and tired

Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9: 1     1 Timothy 2: 1 – 7
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
19 September 2004, 9am

O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears. Jer 9:1

That’s heavy stuff isn’t it? I think most of us would probably feel fairly uncomfortable if somebody came up with something like that in a conversation. Even if we knew that that somebody was grieving for a loved one or had just been through major trauma. We would probably all feel that using words like these would be a bit excessive, even in those circumstances. And most probably our reactions would be of a soothing, comforting and definitely not encouraging character.
"Now, now, it’s alright, it’s going to be alright, don’t cry, here is a tissue and I’ll get you a glass of water….."

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where at that point the person you were so lovingly trying to comfort turned around and said: Shut up those soothing noises, keep your tissues and drink the glass of water yourself, I am very sad and I want to cry my eyes out.

It has happened to me. And it was very embarrassing.

Strong and very deep felt grief generally does not have a place in our society. We want to grow over things quickly, we want to be strong, stable people, not prone to excess, not over emotional, able to keep control at all times.

My joy is gone, grief is upon me. My heart is sick. Jer 8:18

It is God we hear speaking here. God going completely over the top with emotion, weeping, crying, mourning with an abandon that is rather unseemly for somebody that is supposed to be almighty and in control, somebody that is supposed to be forever saving the world with an upbeat and positive energy that will never run out.
God is crying and feeling exceedingly hopeless.

It is not only in Jeremiah we encounter a weeping God. All over scripture there are passages where we find God in utter despair. Hurting with the hurt of his people, mourning and in dismay about the pain and suffering in the world, the pain inflicted on people, the lack of peace and justice in the world, grieving because people reject him and the good gifts he offers them.

It is in Jesus Christ that this hurting and suffering takes on yet another dimension. Not only do we find a God that is grieving over the injustices and unrighteousness of his people, we find God himself suffering, in Jesus Christ, helpless and hopeless, spreading his arms wide on the cross, surrendering to the powers that are out to negate him.

God on a cross and only a handful of people left at the foot of that cross to support him and stay with him in his hour of need.

It’s the world turned on its head isn’t it? A God suffering, a God crying, a God weeping with despair. What good could such a God be?

In the past few weeks a lot of pain and suffering has passed through our living rooms, Beslan, Jakarta, Iraq to name but a few of the big baddies, there seems to be so much trauma inflicting going on that it is hard not to feel affected.

And I don’t know about you, but I have at times consciously turned off the television when the news started or not opened the paper first thing in the morning. Because there just are times when enough is enough and our poor overloaded senses can’t bear any more.

Shouldn’t we, as people of faith, be more positive, still full of the hope that lives in us, full of trust in God and just quietly supporting those who suffer in our prayers?

If I read Jeremiah right, I think it could be that sometimes quiet acceptance and stoic reserve is not the right approach. Especially for people of faith.

Because sometimes things are just too awful, and they get to us not in spite of but because of our faith. Because it all goes so radically against everything that God wants for us and has promised. Because it is so very much against everything we try to live out in our lives. Because it negates everything that we, in the name of our God, hold dear.

And perhaps then it is time to weep, to mourn and to feel deeply dismayed about it all. Like God. To sit with God and feel with God the disappointment and pain over a world that somehow keeps moving in the wrong direction. Weep over all the injustice done, all the pain inflicted, the children killed, the senselessness of war, the ravages of hunger. And feel ourselves fill with a profound grief and deep anger: This is not what the world is supposed to be like. This is not what God created us for. This is not where we got all these magnificent gifts and talents for as people. It is just not right!

To then find that there, in the depth of grief and anger we find ourselves on God’s side. Sharing pain and suffering, and carrying it through to the other side.

God in Jesus Christ did not turn away from our grief. He took it on and went through it. And he showed that there is no darkness so deep and no grief so profound or there is a way through to new life, new inspiration, new strength. That there is a life to live, on the other side of grief that is worth living because it has faced the truth and has come to true salvation, to life with God, not hampered by the anxiety of what the powers of the world might or might not do. Whatever they may or may not do, whatever may or may not happen, the only thing for us to do is live the new life in Christ, stand up for justice and peace, love and forgive as if there was nothing we could lose by doing so. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004

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