My best friend died of colon cancer three years ago today. She was 39 years old. Each year I make an extra effort to honor her memory on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. Today for the worship words I am sharing the sermon I preached about my reaction to her diagnosis and the gift of lament found in the Psalms. This sermon was originally preached on June 26, 2011 at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and is shared today in loving memory of my buddy, Kristi.
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain* in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
How do we pray when our hearts are broken? Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel recounts this incident from his experience at Auschwitz: “Inside the kingdom of night I witnessed a strange trial. Three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, indict God for having allowed his children to be massacred. An awesome conclave, particularly in view of the fact that it was held in a concentration camp. But what happened next is to me even more awesome still. After the trial at which God had been found guilty as charged, one of the rabbis looked at the watch which he had somehow managed to preserve in the kingdom of night and said, ‘Ah, it is time for prayers.’ And with that the three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, all bowed their heads and prayed.”
How do we pray when our hearts are breaking? When I got a call last month that my dear friend, Rev. Kristi Foster, had stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 38, I prayed and cried and questioned God. This has been especially hard for me because Kristi devotes her life to helping others, does whatever she can to stay healthy-exercise, vegetarian, etc-and should be in better healthy than most of us. In the following weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time praying while gardening. This isn’t new for me. What has changed is the tone of my prayer. Somedays I pray why Kristi and God how could you let this happen. Woe, to the weeds in my garden on those days. And other days, I’m able to pray for her healing, thank God for her life and mine, and feel blessed by the trips we’ve taken together and the adventures we’ve had and am hopeful that we might have more time together.
I share my story not because it is unique. I share it because we have all had pain in our lives. We have all had the opportunity to pray while our hearts are breaking. We have all had tragedy, loss, sadness-times where we ask God, how long? [Read more…]