The Psalms of Advent, December 13, 2022
You are invited to light a candle and join me as we continue our journey with Advent Psalm 42, found here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2042&version=NRSVUE.
As mentioned in the previous blog, the author of this poignant psalm-song-poem was most likely in Babylonian exile or had just returned to Israel, perhaps Jerusalem, and was mourning the ruin and displacement of his Jewish people. The word that speaks to me this Advent day is where, found in verses 3 and 10: “Where is your God”? In these verses, where is both question and demand.
As a minister for twenty years, as a spiritual companion, and as a Christian (along with any spiritual person) living in a secular society, I am quite familiar with the aching and/or cynical question, “Where is your God?” I’ve heard it asked at the death of an infant. I’ve heard it demanded after fervent, faithful prayers for a healing that didn’t happen. I’ve heard it asked in times of natural disasters and horrifying wars. I’ve heard it asked from good people when bad things happen. In the dark shadows of a three-year depression and also when I watched helplessly while my mother succumbed to Parkinson’s disease and dementia, I asked it myself. At times, I still do. Where are you, God?
I admit that I do not have the theologically definitive answer to the question, “Where is your God when . . . ?” I can only share my own personal ponderings and convictions. First, I suspect that many of us imagine God, by whatever name we use, as our personal genie or lucky magic charm. If we are good, if we are faithful, if we are obedient, if we do the right things and say the right words, then God “owes” us when trouble comes. When God doesn’t “pay up,” we throw away the lamp, dismiss the genie, toss the charm and look elsewhere.
Secondly, we like to place blame on anyone but ourselves, and God is an easy target. The problem, though, is that God isn’t the source of sorrow and disappointment. Often what gets dealt us is a result of our own choices (the gift and challenge of free will) about what we eat, drink, breathe, where we live, who we choose to love, how well we take care of our bodily temples, etc. And, often our lives are changed by others’ choices and actions, as well as those things over which we have no control. Wars are a product of human greed, injustice, and evil, not of God. Many natural disasters affect or kill hundreds of thousands of people because we continue to build where Mother Nature has said we should not. Those who have lived before us have left a legacy of environmental abuse, along with the careless ways we live now, even though God trusted us to be good stewards of creation. But it’s much easier to just blame God than to admit our own failings.
Finally, I believe God most waits and makes God’s Self known in the dark places. The Franciscan contemplative theologian Fr. Richard Rohr has written that Christ didn’t die to “take away our sins” (whatever that actually means) but to take on all human suffering in order to demonstrate the God of love who is ever-present, ever-compassionate, ever caring. Through my own personal experiences, I believe that the Holy One, the one Who Is, the “living God” (verse 2) will always be present in the darkest shadows where “deep calls to deep” (verse 7) in its rawest, most honest voice. For myself as a Christian, this hope is the promise and meaning of Christmas.
Blessings ~ Rosemary
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