You have turned my mourning into dancing;
have taken off my sackcloth
clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
Omy God, I will give thanks to you forever.
Psalm 30, v. 11-12
Psalm 65, the reading for Sunday, October 24, was a psalm that called all people and creation to praise God. As I was preparing the sermon, I thought of all the things that keep us from praising or giving thanks: taking things for granted, a sense of entitlement, greed, indifference, too much worry. All of these are sins – or at least shortcomings – and I almost preached a sermon on repenting from them and turning to praise. But then I remembered grief, perhaps the most powerful emotion that makes it hard for us to praise God. Grief over the loss of a loved one, a marriage, health or ability, a home or job. But grief is no sin. On the contrary, grief – at least in most cases – is a sign of obedience. We mourn only those people and things we have loved, and God calls us to love, deeply and passionately. Indeed, mourning is a kind of praise, as we remember with thanksgiving who or what we have lost.
As we head towards winter and the holidays approach, it is a time of both mourning and praise. On All Saints Sunday (November 7th this year) we remember with sadness those who have died while we thank God for the Communion of Saints that draws us together in eternal life. At Thanksgiving we give thanks for God’s many blessings, while mourning those who are no longer at the table. And as we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, we mourn Christmas’s past and those we have loved who are no longer here. For many people this is the hardest time of year, even amid the celebrations.
But God also promises that grief softens over time, even if it never leaves completely. Psalm 30 praises God for that. It reminds us that weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Grief must take its course, but peace and healing comes in time. So as we prepare for the joyous celebrations of the coming season, let’s also remember to hold each other in prayer, as we give thanks for the bonds that hold us together, and for God’s love that surrounds us.
Grace and Peace,