10th April 2020

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

As has been said by others before me, this Lent and Easter has been very different to what we are accustomed.  Social distancing and virtual lockdown has meant that many of us have had more time on our hands than usual, certainly, more time to reflect on the situation we find ourselves in, to consider who and what is really important for us, what we can manage without, and what we really need to sustain us in isolation.

I have recently been reading about the place of lamentation (not to be confused with the book of Lamentations) in our liturgies, or rather, the infrequency with which we include it in our worship.  Some may say that even in death, the Christian has nothing to fear, and of course, we don’t.  The resurrection of Jesus has provided those who believe in him the hope of life in eternity.  However, that does not mean that there are times in life when we feel abandoned by God; times when nothing can console us; times when our frustration by what appears to have been unanswered prayer overwhelms us to the point that we question our faith.

I am therefore encouraged by these words of Jesus as he hung dying on the cross.  “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  If Jesus could feel this kind of emotion and express it, then surely so can we.  Feeling abandoned by God is not an abnormal experience, it is a reality of life we sometimes wish we didn’t have to go through.  It does not mean that our faith is weak, but rather that in the weakness of our humanity, God still listens to us, still loves us, still welcomes us with arms wide open.

It may be that you feel God has abandoned us in these difficult days but know that he is with you.  It’s okay to cry out, just as Jesus did, because he will hear you.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

As we reflect upon the death of Jesus on this unusual Good Friday, may we also share with him those things which concern us most, sure in the knowledge that we shall indeed find our rest in him.

Suffering God, we come before you today with hearts that are weary and heavy laden.  Our daily lives are filled with uncertainty.  Some are worried about the present, the safety of loved ones and ourselves.  Some are worried about their livelihoods and whether or not they will have jobs or businesses to return to when this is all over.  Some are struggling with the anxiety that isolation brings.  Some find the present restrictions frustrating and damaging to their mental health.  Lord, you know each one, named and unnamed.  Hear their cries, minister to their needs and help each one, them, and us, to trust in your ever living, loving presence, even if we cannot feel it right at this moment.  At his death, in a loud voice Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).  In these uncertain times, we too entrust our spirit to you, secure in the knowledge that you will see us through.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Click on the link below to listen with me to “Praise you in the Storm” by Casting Crowns in a specially produced video for the times we currently live in.

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