Third Sunday of Easter: Frustration and Hope
The LORD is merciful and righteous; our God is compassionate. The LORD protects simple folk; God saves me whenever I am brought down. I tell myself, You can be at peace again, because God has been good to you. You, God, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears and my foot from stumbling, so I’ll walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 116:5-9 Common English Bible (CEB)
As I read this passage from the Book of Psalms, I was struck by the line, “The LORD protects simple folk.” I think I was so struck by that line because sometimes in our pursuit of all that is lofty and holy, in the race to discover the right philosophy or the proper theology, we forget that God protects “simple folk” like you and me.
Now, the term “simple folk” could be taken as derogatory. Sometimes simple is equated with a lack of education or wit. But I don’t think that was the intent of the author here. Instead, I think he was attempting to illustrate that God is not only on the side of the rich and powerful but that God is also protects the average Joe, like you and me.
So, what if we were to expand this understanding of simple folk beyond just this passage and remember that God is the God of all people and all of creation, even the birds of the air and the weeds of the field. God is the God of the simple. And it’s within this simplicity that we find a deeper meaning of how to follow Christ.
I mean, Jesus never asked us to recite a creed or to seek power, fame, or wealth. He never said step on the head of your neighbor or exploit the poor in order to get ahead. Of course not. But what Jesus did command us, in the simplicity of his message, was to be a loving people. He said things like, “love God, love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy,” and finally, we are to “love one another as God has loved us.”
I can think of no better way to overcome our frustration as the days of sheltering in place continue. Love one another by refusing to put your neighbor in danger. Love one another by keeping in touch by phone or from a distance, especially those who are alone during this time. Love one another by continuing to give to the food pantry, by continuing the work of peace and justice by supporting our church both prayerfully and fiscally. Love one another, especially on this Earth Day weekend, by using your voice and vote to promote policy change, both locally and nationally, because even when this pandemic is over, the existential threat of climate change will still be a danger to all of us.
In his book Cathedral on Fire, Brooks Berndt says, “The sheer enormity of the climate crisis combined with the empire-sized forces that brought us to this moment can instill a paralyzing sense of powerlessness. Yet, Jesus’ ministry points to one of the gifts that churches bring to the climate movement: a new reality, a reality defined by liberating values and practices. In the face of odds that seem overwhelming, churches provide a relational web of sustenance and support. Bonds are formed. Needs are met. A common purpose is shared. This is the stuff of tangible hope.”[i]
While Brooks was speaking about the climate crisis here, I think these words of hope and the role of the church can also be applied to this on-going pandemic. “This is the stuff of tangible hope.” It’s a hope that’s propagated within and among a group of people who love one another in the same way God as loved, and continues to love, each of them. It’s a love that expands beyond the frustration of the times, and it’s a love that transcends borders, ethnicity or race, it transcends social standing or past mistakes; this love, the love of Christ’s followers for one another, their neighbor, their enemy, will in the end, transcend these days of isolation and fear. And I don’t know about you, but the simplicity of this message and the love for one another that I have already witnessed on the ground by our congregations, that gives me cause to hope. I tell myself, the Psalmist writes, You can be at peace again, because God has been good to you. …So, I’ll walk before God in the land of the living. Amen and Amen.
[i] Brooks Berndt Cathedral on Fire: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis (Cleveland: United Church of Christ, 2020) pg.24