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A prayer of thanks in a time of distress

By Nathan Decker

2020, more than any other in my life, has been a year of distress. I say this because of COVID-19, the polarization of politics, the riots and violence. I say this because of the death of my favorite uncle, the loss of friends in the community, and fears about losing others. I look at the world I live in and I no longer recognize this as the land of my ancestors. When I turn to the Bible, I find I am not alone.

The Hebrews were taken into captivity in the year 597 BC. They found themselves in a strange land. Their ears were filled with strange music and sounds of different languages. Their eyes beheld idols to gods and structures of power they didn’t recognize. Foreign smells flooded their senses making it difficult to remember what home, the Temple and Jerusalem was like. In response, the people worshipped through lament.

Lament is to vocalize the communal pain, anger, angst and uncertainty. Lament is to remember God and to call upon God for justice. Psalm 137 comes to mind:

By the Babylonian rivers we sat down and grief and wept;

Hung our harps upon the willow, mourned for Zion when we slept.

There our captors in derision did require of us a song;

So we sat with staring vision, and days were hard and long.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange and bitter land;

Can our voices veil the sorrow?

Lord God, help your holy band.

adapted from Psalm 137 by Ewald Bash

This November, let us worship whether in-person or online. November is a month of remembrance. Let us bring God our sorrow for those we have lost on All Saint’s Sunday. Let us remember those who served our nation as veterans on Veteran’s Day. And let us, in worship, give thanks that through it all, God has been with us, come Thanksgiving.

Lament. Remember. And Worship. Amen.

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.