“Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow,”

"Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow," ELW 327, Verse 1

Through the night of doubt and sorrow,
onward goes the pilgrim band,
singing songs of expectation,
marching to the promised land.
Clear before us through the darkness
gleams and burns the guiding light;
pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim
stepping fearless through the night.

One the light of God's own presence
on the ransomed people shed,
chasing far the gloom and terror,
bright'ning all the path we tread.
One the object of our journey,
one the faith which never tires,
one the earnest looking forward,
one the hope our God inspires.

One the strain that lips of thousands
lift as from the heart of one;
one the conflict, one the peril,
one the march in God begun.
One the gladness of rejoicing
on the far eternal shore,
where the one almighty Father
reigns in love forevermore.

Onward, therefore, sisters, brothers;
onward, with the cross our aid.
Bear its shame, and fight its battle
till we rest beneath its shade.
Soon shall come the great awak'ning;
soon the rending of the tomb!
Then the scatt'ring of all shadows,
and the end of toil and gloom.

My friends and I were only a mile or two from base
camp, but night had fallen. I proposed that we spend
the night in the meadow we had reached, rather than
try to negotiate a rocky, sloping trail in pitch darkness. I
was afraid--afraid of falling, of the unknown. My friends
said, "No, come on. We'll be all right." And one of my
friends, Soren, put his hand on my cheek in a gesture of
comfort and reassurance. And with that reassuring touch,
suddenly I knew that they were right. We would make it.
We should keep going.

"Pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim" says the hymn. Often,
that's what keeps us going--a hand holding ours, a
touch on the cheek, a comforting embrace, a tater-tot
casserole. God gives us fellow pilgrims--family, friends,
church members--companions for the journey to lift us
up when we fall, to encourage us when we doubt. And
we do the same for them. Through the night of doubt
and sorrow, surrounded by that communion of saints we
keep on keeping on.

Jesus, thank you for the companions you've given us
on our journeys. Make us, for each other, signs of your
gracious presence with us. Amen.

Kathryn

”Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow,”

"Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow," ELW 327, Verse 1

Through the night of doubt and sorrow,
onward goes the pilgrim band,
singing songs of expectation,
marching to the promised land.
Clear before us through the darkness
gleams and burns the guiding light;
pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim
stepping fearless through the night.

One the light of God's own presence
on the ransomed people shed,
chasing far the gloom and terror,
bright'ning all the path we tread.
One the object of our journey,
one the faith which never tires,
one the earnest looking forward,
one the hope our God inspires.

One the strain that lips of thousands
lift as from the heart of one;
one the conflict, one the peril,
one the march in God begun.
One the gladness of rejoicing
on the far eternal shore,
where the one almighty Father
reigns in love forevermore.

Onward, therefore, sisters, brothers;
onward, with the cross our aid.
Bear its shame, and fight its battle
till we rest beneath its shade.
Soon shall come the great awak'ning;
soon the rending of the tomb!
Then the scatt'ring of all shadows,
and the end of toil and gloom.

Last summer, my family and I were hiking in the Cascade
Mountains of Washington state, headed to a mountain
lake called Hart Lake. A nine-mile round trip, the hike
was beautiful but also challenging, especially for our
12-year-old son Isaac who got easily discouraged by the
annoyances of hiking--mosquitoes, flies and dust. Isaac
complained and dragged his feet most of the hike until
we got to the point where we could see the mountain
stream whose source was Hart Lake, and we knew that
we were getting close to our goal. And then he suddenly
got his second wind and exclaimed, "I've come this far;
I'm not going back now!"

The first verse of our hymn speaks of such a journey--the
journey of the life of faith, which sometimes leads us
"through the night of doubt and sorrow." It would be easy
to get discouraged but for the "guiding light" of "God's
own presence" (verse 2), which encourages us and gives
us the strength to keep going: "I've come this far! I'm not
going back now!"

Lord Jesus, when the journey is hard, give us eyes to see
the light of your presence with us and give us the strength
to keep walking. Amen.

Kathryn

Mark 8:31-38

Mark 8:31-38
 
Like Peter the rock, we are made uncomfortable by Jesus'
call: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny
themselves and take up their cross and follow me." In a
world where the "self" has become, arguably, an idol of
our own making (witness the untold number of "selfies"
posted online every day in a quest for "likes"), this is a
radical call indeed.
 
But what if this life to which Jesus calls us--the life of
Christian discipleship--is actually the only life worth
living? What if losing our life for the sake of Christ and
our neighbor is to find our best life? What if taking up our
cross and following Jesus is the only way to become truly
human at last? Well, if that is true (and countless people
through the centuries have bet their lives on it), then may
God give us grace to follow Jesus--this Lenten season and
always--in the way of the cross.
 
Lord Jesus, give us grace to follow you in the way of the
cross and to find in you our true life. Amen.
 
 
Mark 8:31-38 (NRSV)
 
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Romans 4:13-25

Romans 4:13-25
 
When we say something is "too good to be true," we
are expressing skepticism about an offer. When I get
a postcard in the mail that promises that I "may have
already won" something big, I tell my children that it is
"too good to be true." No, we didn't win a cruise. No, we
didn't win a new car.
 
Paul writes about something that seems too good to
be true: the grace of God that justifies us through the
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And yet, miracle
of miracles, it is true! This is the God who promised a
son to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, when they
were "already as good as dead," the God "who gives life
to the dead and calls into existence the things that do
not exist." Abraham and Sarah trusted God, though the
promise seemed too good to be true, and they received
a son whom they named Laughter. We trust that same
God whose promise is good and true and we receive life
abundant in God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
 
God of life, we give thanks that your promises are trustworthy
and true. Give us the faith of Abraham and Sarah as we wait
and hope for the fulfillment of your promises. Amen.
 
 
Romans 4:13-25 (NRSV)
 
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,
17 as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations")--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be."
19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.
20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
22 Therefore his faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness."
23 Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone,
24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Psalm 22:23-31

Psalm 22:23-31
 
The last half of Psalm 22 reads like a "Hallelujah Chorus"
of praise. The psalmist calls on everyone to praise God,
from the "great congregation" to "future generations." It
is striking, then, that the psalm begins on a very different
note: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The psalmist (and Jesus after) cries out in anguish to a
God who seems silent. The turning point comes when
the psalmist knows that God has heard: "From the horns
of the wild oxen you have answered me" (Ps. 22:21). The
NRSV translates, "you have rescued me" but the original
Hebrew does not go that far. The psalmist may still be in
grave peril, but the fact that God has answered is enough
to move the psalmist to praise.
In our lives, as in this psalm, we lament and we praise.
In lament, we express to God honest emotions of fear,
anger and grief and we call on God to hear us. Then,
eventually, we turn to praise. Both lament and praise
are faithful forms of prayer. Both lament and praise are
based on the knowledge that God hears and that God
will answer.
 
Gracious God, we know that you hear us when we pray.
Give us grace to pray boldly, trusting that you will answer.
Amen.
 
 
Psalm 22:23-31 (NRSV)
 
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
 
In the Bible, when someone's name is changed, it marks
a change in their life story, usually instigated by an
encounter with God. After wrestling with God, Jacob
becomes Israel (Gen 32). After encountering Jesus,
Saul becomes Paul (Acts 9). In this story, God makes
a covenant with Abram and Sarai and renames them
Abraham and Sarah. And the covenant is this: that in
their old age, they will have a son; that they will be the
ancestors to a great nation; and that God will "be God to
you and to your offspring after you" (17:7).
It is an astounding promise, and indeed, Abraham falls on
his face with laughter at the thought that he and Sarah
could have a child. But the God who makes that promise
is, as Paul later says, one "who gives life to the dead and
calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom
4:17).
 
In this Lenten season, we remember that it is that same
God who gives us life and calls us into existence through
baptism. In that gracious encounter, God has claimed us
and named us, too, with a new name: Christian.
 
God of new beginnings, be with us on our journeys as you
were with Abraham and Sarah and all our ancestors in the
faith. Amen.
 
 
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (NRSV)
 
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous."
3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,
4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you...
15 God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her."

“Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow,”

"Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow," ELW 327

Through the night of doubt and sorrow,
onward goes the pilgrim band,
singing songs of expectation,
marching to the promised land.
Clear before us through the darkness
gleams and burns the guiding light;
pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim
stepping fearless through the night.

One the light of God's own presence
on the ransomed people shed,
chasing far the gloom and terror,
bright'ning all the path we tread.
One the object of our journey,
one the faith which never tires,
one the earnest looking forward,
one the hope our God inspires.

One the strain that lips of thousands
lift as from the heart of one;
one the conflict, one the peril,
one the march in God begun.
One the gladness of rejoicing
on the far eternal shore,
where the one almighty Father
reigns in love forevermore.

Onward, therefore, sisters, brothers;
onward, with the cross our aid.
Bear its shame, and fight its battle
till we rest beneath its shade.
Soon shall come the great awak'ning;
soon the rending of the tomb!
Then the scatt'ring of all shadows,
and the end of toil and gloom.

My friend Andrew had a smile that could light up a room.
His joy was contagious. It was precisely because of this
that we all found it inconceivable that he could have
taken his own life on a tragic night in August. That was a
night of "doubt and sorrow" for me that I thought I would
never escape. I sat weeping in my wife's arms. On that
night, none of my theological training felt useful. None
of my orthodox Christian teachings were adequate to
comfort me in my bone-deep grief.
I let God have it that night. I cursed. I shouted. I cried
out. Somewhere in the middle of my despair I began to
imagine Go''s arms extending farther and farther out to
ensure that every emotion would be held with love. God
didn't need a censored prayer. God needed my whole
heart. God needed my real emotion. So I gave it. During
Lent, we are invited to "let God have it," knowing that
God's arms are big enough to carry all of it, and knowing
that the "great awaking" shall come soon.

"Oh God, I don't love you, I don't even want to love you, but I
want to want to love you"-St. Teresa of Avila

“Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow,”

"Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow," ELW 327

Through the night of doubt and sorrow,
onward goes the pilgrim band,
singing songs of expectation,
marching to the promised land.
Clear before us through the darkness
gleams and burns the guiding light;
pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim
stepping fearless through the night.

One the light of God's own presence
on the ransomed people shed,
chasing far the gloom and terror,
bright'ning all the path we tread.
One the object of our journey,
one the faith which never tires,
one the earnest looking forward,
one the hope our God inspires.

One the strain that lips of thousands
lift as from the heart of one;
one the conflict, one the peril,
one the march in God begun.
One the gladness of rejoicing
on the far eternal shore,
where the one almighty Father
reigns in love forevermore.

Onward, therefore, sisters, brothers;
onward, with the cross our aid.
Bear its shame, and fight its battle
till we rest beneath its shade.
Soon shall come the great awak'ning;
soon the rending of the tomb!
Then the scatt'ring of all shadows,
and the end of toil and gloom.

On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech
at the Church of God in Christ headquarters in Memphis
entitled, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." In spite of
numerous threats to his life, King talked passionately
about the plight of sanitation workers with confidence
and clarity. In the speech, he framed history as an
ongoing march to the promised land. It is almost as if
King believed that God's promised future and humanity's
difficult past were marching toward each other and
getting ready to embrace. King died the day after his
speech on April 4, 1968.
How could King sing "songs of expectation" amidst his
night of "doubt and sorrow?" He possessed "the hope
our God inspires." He was marching to the Promised Land,
clasping the hands of his brother knowing that he was
not alone. Do you need to be reminded of God's future of
peace and justice for all? Rest in the promises of the One
who is our guiding light. Clasp the hands of your brother
Jesus as you journey toward "the far eternal shore."

God of Promise, we see dimly, you see clearly. Give us your
eyes. We listen poorly, you listen attentively. Give us your ears.
We love selfishly, you love richly. Give us your heart. Amen

Mark 1:9-15

Mark 1:9-15
 
As the only white kid in an African-American history
course, from time to time I would be questioned as
to whether I had "street cred." This term was used
for someone who had spent time enduring the harsh
realities of life, particularly in communities of color. After
all, it is difficult to relate to a situation that you have
never experienced. These experiences of hardship are
what give you your "street cred."
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is our God's
"street cred." Through Christ's experience in the
wilderness, we see a God who is tempted and who
can help us when we're tempted (Hebrews 2:8). Jesus
experiences poverty, homelessness, hunger, pain,
sadness, anger, betrayal and the full range of human
suffering so that it all might be redeemed. And you can't
get more "street cred" than that!
 
God of suffering, we thank you that you are a God with
"street cred" who shows up in our struggles. Where there
is suffering, bring your redemption. Where there is fear,
bring your courage. Where there is pain, bring your
presence. Where there is death, bring your new life. Amen.
 
Dave
Mark 1:9-15 (NRSV)
 
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

1 Peter 3:18-22

1 Peter 3:18-22
 
Gods don't suffer. And they definitely don't die! They
intervene capriciously with human affairs and are usually
impervious to our pleas for justice. The notion that God
would participate in the depths of suffering--six feet
deep to be precise--is completely absurd. Unless, of
course, that God had a passionate love for humanity that
could only be expressed by joining fully in the human
experience. Knowing that God has stood with us and for
us for the sake of love and freedom, we too are called to
proclaim love to others knowing that we are freed to
do so.
The passionate love of Jesus in the flesh is now released
into the world as we are made alive in our baptism. The
suffering that comes from standing with and for others is
now redeemed in Christ. We can now face the toughest
challenges that our world faces knowing that we belong
to God. As James Baldwin said, "Not everything that is
faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until
it is faced."
 
Jesus, teach us how to die before we die. Show us that
true power is in vulnerability. Help us put down our
weapons and pick up our cross. Amen.
 
 
1 Peter 3:18-22 (NRSV)
 
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,
20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.