Reflecting on Psalms 51:1-12

Anyone who has experienced depression, anxiety, mental illness, or who has cared for someone suffering from mental illness, might be all too familiar with the anguish and isolation we find in some of the Psalms as King David describes mental and emotional pain.

It is estimated* that over the course of our lifetime, half of Americans will suffer from a serious mental health condition.  People experiencing mental illness are often vulnerable.  Relationships with loved ones are often compromised; faith is shaken, and hopelessness emerges.  The anguish of the Psalms becomes reality.

In Psalm 51, we hear how David longs to be restored with God’s love. Overwhelmed by worthlessness and desperation, David turns to God to receive a pure heart and renewed spirit.  Jesus promises that God gives us a new spirit.

Healing at its heart is about a restoration of relationships, and the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a promise of restoration to God. The church is poised to be a powerful and welcoming place for people who need, or are experiencing, healing.  Creating space to share hopeful stories, the church can be a locus for proclaiming the good news of healing of body and relationships.

Compassionate God, you suffer with all who long for health and wholeness and we give you thanks for those who provide care and support for individuals and families dealing with mental illness.  As Christ was not afraid to be vulnerable, may we as the church live faithfully by his example. Break down the barriers that divide us from one another. Where there is discouragement and despair, bring your comfort. Where there is confusion and chaos, bring your peace. Heal all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit.

Give us a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Reflecting on Jeremiah 31:31-34

God has created each one of us as God’s own, giving each of us faith according to our abilities.  Each time we gather, all are invited to share and participate as full and equal members of the body of Christ. As a church that belongs to Christ, how are we welcoming all people without hesitation?

When we join with God in worship and prayer, how is God’s banquet table accessible to all in the gathered community?  How do our celebrations and traditions invite all members and strangers to engage Christ’s living word? For those with physical limitations, are there barriers inhibiting worship leadership or participation?  In what ways are we offering meaningful, inclusive worship and fellowship community which shares God’s word and delivers God’s message of love? Are there worship service adaptations that would better welcome people with intellectual or development disabilities? Have we placed barriers through our human oversight that prevent God’s children from fully participating in the rites and sacraments of God’s church?

Jeremiah reminds us that God is accessible to all of us for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest (v34).  As we near the end of our Lenten journey, may we examine who we are as church that engages creative ways to accompany one another, lifting up each gift that God has planted in our hearts.  We all have the ability and capacity to receive and give the love of Christ.

Gracious and loving creator, we thank you for creating us each uniquely in your image. Equip us to become more aware and accepting of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through meaningful, inclusive worship and fellowship sharing God’s word and love, remove any barriers preventing us from being one body united in Christ. Amen.

Reflecting on Hebrews 5:5-10

Over 81,000 drug overdoses occurred in the United States last year*.  Alarmingly, this is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.  Worse yet, we know that there are many more folks experiencing addiction right now, struggling to stay alive.

If we are not careful, we are too quick to judge the faults of others. This leaves little room for us to extend God’s grace and Christ’s compassion. Christ reminds us that even he needed to cry out with tears seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is in our struggles and brokenness that we receive the gifts of God’s unconditional love and grace.

Addiction is a form of medicated bondage and suffering. Our gospel call is to meet others in their pain and suffering. As a church community, we have the sacred privilege of standing in solidarity with those struggling with addiction. With Christ as our guide, we can do so by seeking out ways to address addiction crises, raise awareness of stigmatization, host support groups, provide educational programs to the community and minister to those struggling with addiction.

Most merciful God, we thank you accompanying us in our struggles and pain. Because you are always creating new life, there is always hope in you. As you hear our cries and know our wounds, free us from those places in our lives that are captive to any form of addiction. Help us to seek the help we need. As the body of Christ, send your spirit to equip us with the strength and courage to seek out and be healers on the journeys of recovery. Amen.