The sad stuff

Feb 27, 2012

Every Lent I think of Kellie. In fact, I wrote about her for The Lutheran a few years ago. Kellie was in confirmation class and had experienced rough things in her life. The death of a sibling. The divorce of parents. So I should not have been surprised by her answer. In addition to asking students about last Sunday’s sermon – threatening, risky for any pastor, I think – I also habitually asked about the service itself.


What was the color for the day? Purple.

Who was included in the prayers? Millie, Frank, the President.

What did you not like about the service? The sad stuff.


Kellie did not like the sad stuff. Further conversation revealed that what she meant was the absence of "This is the feast" and the presence of the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness, the Kyrie, and "all those sad songs." She really missed "the A word." It was Lent. Lent brings with it "the sad stuff."


I was frankly troubled by Kellie’s lament over "the sad stuff." There is good reason for having Confession and Forgiveness at the outset on Sunday morning, praying the Kyrie, singing "all those sad songs" and omitting the "glad" ones. We assemble to make visible the Body of Christ though we have not lived as that Body. We have not been faithful to our common vocation to offer the world a sign of hope and renewal. We have not lived a lifestyle which contradicts the individualism, self-interest and consumerism of our culture. We have failed to work for justice and peace. We have not shown that divisions, prejudice, injustice and indifference can be overcome by God.


We cry for mercy as our worship begins, in our intercessory prayers, as we gather around the Table singing of the Lamb of God. We plead for mercy for friend and stranger, for the whole universe and for me. And we rejoice that this mercy is for everyone and everything. At this Table all are welcome and all are fed, for all – whether they know it or not – need this mercy. 


I was troubled by Kellie’s lament because it indicated that she did not get the "glad" stuff that’s evident even on Lenten Sundays, the "glad stuff" offered in worship by God to the people of God. The Lord to whom we pray, before whom alone we bow, before whom the cherubim and seraphim bend their knees, before whom the earth is silent is the source of mercy.


Kellie needs to know (as I need to know) that God gives reprieve, release, another chance, a new lease on life, new dawn, new day, new age, repair of the broken, resurrection of the dead, smiles for the defeated, life to those who are crushed in the winepress we call living. Oh, yes, we need to lament. We need to confess. We need to plead. We need the "sad stuff." But more than that, we need to know and feel that God fills us with forgiveness, with gladness, with joy, with love.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo