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God’s Grief.

Pentecost 18 Common Lectionary Year C . 

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

©2013 Rev Elisabeth R Jones

Well, what a hornet’s nest of texts we have this week! The seemingly benign, pious exhortations of an early Christian leader for us to “pray for rulers and governments to rule well so that we can live a peaceable life”  (1 Timothy 2:1-7) rings in our ears in Quebec as we react and wonder how best to respond to the proposed charter of Quebec values. It’s a good and timely reminder to us that a distinctive activity of a community of faith is indeed to pray. We shall pray for our rulers and governments. We shall pray that we can live a peaceable life, alongside people of all faiths and none who seek the common good, of dignity, equity and human flourishing. It will be from the posture of prayer,  from conversation with God, that wise, faithful response will emerge.

But it’s the second text that provokes me to a deeper reflection of how we, as a community  are called to live feeding spirits, creating a safe welcome, and fulfilling God’s purposes in this time, this place.

It’s not an easy text, and I can’t do it justice in a few short minutes, but I’ll do my best to share the insight that energizes me, this day of grace.

It is a gut-wrenching lamentation for a world gone horribly wrong. A heart is breaking over a broken world. But, as Graeme pointed out in his introduction, it’s not clear just whose broken heart it is.

We’re to be forgiven for assuming that we are listening to the predictably gloomy Jeremiah off on another of his wailing rants. Who else could it be?

For centuries of Western Christian tradition, we’ve tended to speak of God almost exclusively as almighty, invisible, wise, inscrutable, impassible,  (meaning one who is above emotion). These are philosophical categories which we’ve imported from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, by way of a medieval theologian called Thomas Aquinas. Trouble is, such lofty, existential blandness has next to nothing to do with the much richer, complicated portrait of God we discover in the pages of Scripture.

God, we are told in Genesis, looked at primordial chaos, and yearned to make something beautiful with it, and when God did, creating 17 billion years’ worth of universe, suns, stars, creatures unimaginable, God looks at it all and says “Wow! That’s wonderful!”

God, we are told in Exodus, hears the cries of an enslaved people and is moved to such compassion, that God rescues them from the grip of a powerful empire.

God, the prophets tell us, watches with all the anguished frustration, and fury even, of a jilted spouse, of an ignored parent, all the chaos wrought upon God’s world by the wayward selfishness, arrogance, laziness or fickleness of humans.

God, we are told in John’s Gospel, “so loved the world” that God chose to became one with creation through birth into the human family, and through living, even to death.

The God we encounter in this Bible is One capable of yearning, making,  creating, delighting, hearing, responding with compassion, rescuing, frustration, anger, infuriation, loving, birthing, living, dying. God is the  beyond -all-completeness of all that it is possible to do and be and think and feel.

So then, why not God weeping, grieving? God in anguish? God gut-wrenched?  God heartbroken?

What happens if we read this lament as the grief of God?    See that the lead-weight grief is God’s the tear drenched cheeks are God’s the heartbreak over disaster is God’s broken heart?


What terrifying disservice have we done to God and to ourselves to deny God the capacity to cry,   – and us the capacity to hear God’s grief – over the destructions, the diminishments, the distortions of God’s beloved creation, wrought by chaos or carelessness, by power or privilege misplaced, by delusions that derail?

This text exposes a flaw in human understanding of God’s covenant with us, made in creation, renewed in Abraham, sealed on Moses’ rocks, written on human hearts, revealed in flesh in living, dying and rising of Jesus Christ. The covenant of God with humanity is this: we are made in God’s image so that God can be God in the world through us.

Being made in God’s image means we are filled to the brim, down to our DNA, with all the yearning, creativity , compassion, fury, frustration, anger, sadness, fearless fidelity, healing, mending, living and dying, loving that are the very heart and character of God!

So when we humans, in every generation haven’t been or done what we were made to be and do, God it is who cries out, “Is there no balm, in Gilead, no healing salve in the land? Is there no physician among the people?” For surely God created us to be that healing balm!

This is why we are here. This is why Cedar Park United Church exists. We were created in the image of God, to be the balm in Gilead. We are here, by God’s dream, to embody between us the fullness of God’s healing, redemptive love for God’s  battered, blessed world.   We are here on Lakeview Avenue, to heal, to mend,  to feed, to shelter, to care, to love, to welcome home the stranger, to be saddened by loss, to grieve the un-called for death, to be impatient with selfishness, to mourn every outbreak of war, to be infuriated by the wounds of bigotry, to reach out and raise up the oppressed, to call out and shout down the mighty in the abuse of their power, to keep company with those who work for the common good, to proclaim God’s Dream for the reconciliation of nations……

That’s why we’re here, Cedar Park. Ours are the feet, the hands, the breath, the heart of God for the world.

O God, we pray, let us be your balm in Gilead. Amen.

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