Anyone fed up with the news? When I typed those words and stopped at “fed. up. with.
the…” my “smart” device suggested the next word I wanted was: “news.” Even our devices -
maybe even artificial intelligence - knows: We are in a world of hurt. Lately, the news does not
make me want to “rejoice…always,” as Philippians 4:4 suggests.
Whenever I want to ignore the news, I remember one of the great theologians of the 20th
century, Karl Barth. He said sermons should be written with the Bible in one hand and a
newspaper in the other. I’ve been trying to do that since my seminary days.
Not to mention: I am my father’s son. My father read several newspapers every day.
Near the end of his life he said that, in light of the news of his own day, he was simply worn out
by it all. I think he was ready to go to God. At age 92, he did.
Someone who’s not quite ready to go to God? Maybe Pope Francis. At age 86, he speaks
out - more and more, these days, with a prophetic voice - about our climate. His latest
statement, “Laudate Deum,” describes his journey “from grief and lamentation…to a…more
strident and more pointed outrage” (David Wallace-Wells, “The Pope’s Journey to Climate
Outrage,” The New York Times, 10/11/23). It appears the Pope is fed up, too.
I’m not fed up, and though God may have other plans, I’m not quite ready to go to God.
It may have something to do with my class at Trezevant Manor called “The Soul of Aging.” Last
Wednesday we looked at the challenges of “making peace with your past.” I shared part of an
essay written by a woman who lived through divorce. She wrote that, when her marriage ended,
she spent “a long time just grieving, and then, being angry.”
My experience with divorce was the opposite: I spent a long time being angry before I let
my grief kick in. One Jewish man living in Israel said this week, “I’m angry in so many
directions…my angers are pulling me apart.” Sooner or later, both anger and grief will be part of
our journey called life. We get sad and mad…because we get hurt.
Grief and anger are center stage in our Scriptures today. Our first lesson from the
prophecy of Isaiah is a fitting one for us, when we stop and consider our sadness and grief. Even
more so, when we stop and consider the heartbreaking news from Israel.
Many beloved Bible verses come from the poetic prophet named Isaiah. “The people
who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (9:2). “Comfort, O comfort my people, says
your God” (40:1). Those verses and countless others help build the architecture of hope to be
found all through Isaiah’s book. The vision he casts in today’s passage - chosen for us to hear
long before the discomfort, darkness and death we now find in the Holy Land - Isaiah’s vision
carries a message of both judgment and hope.
First, we hear how a hostile city has been made into a heap and ruin. It will never be
rebuilt. Ruthless nations will forever fear God, Isaiah says, rather than strike terror in other
people (25:2-3). Then, we hear some verses which our Prayer Book suggests for a funeral: “The
Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…(and any) disgrace…(God) will take away from
all the earth” (25:8). Surely God understands anger and grief. That’s why God can be with us,
even when, especially when we’re mad, sad and hurt. Like that king who gave the wedding
In today’s Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus tells us the latest parable about a king
inviting guests to a wedding. When the king sends his slaves to round the guests up, they won’t
come. Not only that, when the king sends out other slaves, giving them specific instructions -
“Tell (them): ‘Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been
slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet’…they made light of it and
went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated
them, and killed them” (22:6).
How did the king feel about that? “The king was enraged” (22:7). I’m thinking his anger
was the way he expressed how sad and hurt he felt. Why would the guests not show up, and
then, when invited a second time, why would they respond violently? Are we surprised at what
the king did? “He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city” (ibid). The
king was mad, yes, but he was sad and hurt, too, I’d say.
Since my parents died, the news now comes in new ways. Like podcasts: One of the
additions to our 21st century world of news. Back in 2016, an African American woman named
Ruby Sales posed a question in a podcast. As a teenager during the Civil Rights era, Ruby’s life
was saved by another teenager, a white seminary student named Jonathan Daniels. Now in her
70s, Ruby is a legendary scholar and public theologian.
Her podcast was entitled, “Where Does It Hurt?” In it, she said that, one day, a young
woman came into the room. She had been hustling on the streets all night. She had sores all
over her body. And she was on drugs. Ruby Sales says that something - perhaps God - told her
to ask that young woman, “Shelley, where does it hurt?”
“And just that simple question unleashed territory in her,” Ruby said, “that she had
never shared with her mother….She talked about all the things that happened to her as a child.
And she literally shared the source of her pain” (“Where Does It Hurt?”
https://onbeing.org/programs/ruby-sales-where-does-it-hurt/ ). Where does it hurt?
Another way people get the news these days is on social media platforms. I don’t
participate in many of them, like Instagram or what was previously known as Twitter, but I am
on Facebook. Despite all of the misinformation, I get news there I don’t see elsewhere -
including the latest photos and occasional wisdom from family and friends. After war broke out
in Israel, a Facebook friend put something up that touched me deeply. It was a poem, ending
with these words:
I held an atlas in my lap / ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered / where does it hurt? / It answered
everywhere / everywhere / everywhere.
~ Warsan Shire
Sisters and brothers in Christ, we’re in world of hurt, and I believe God hurts, too. God is
hurting with us. Jesus, God with flesh on, knew about hurt. He was, as Isaiah said, a man of
sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief (53:3, NLT). Jesus’ suffering lets us know he knew pain
first hand. So many deaths of the last eight days remind us of his.
Perhaps that’s why, for reasons known only to God, there’s another lesson chosen for us
today that’s found in our Prayer Book funeral liturgies. The 23rd Psalm is the Psalm so many
know from memory. We already prayed it once today. I think sometimes, the 23rd Psalm, like
the Lord’s Prayer, needs to be prayed more than once.
Please turn with me in The Book of Common Prayer to page 476, where you’ll find this
beloved Psalm in the King James Version. Whether or not you know it by heart, please join me
in praying to God who is with us, in this, our world of hurt. And let us remember to walk with
those who may be hurting more than we are.
~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg, October 15, 2023