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Disorientation - Personal and Communal

Last Sunday we had our second look at the psalms, and some 'disorientaton' with Psalms 13 and 137 in full.

We began with an interactive bit where I asked people to name 'storms of life' or 'situtations of struggle.'  I had decided that when I listed these I would group them according to whether they were primarily 'personal' or 'communal.'  We got a good long list, though only one was 'communal' - interesting.  We revisited this later in the service.

Psalm 13 and the permission to shout at God seemed quite a timely message: in the last seven days many of our folk have encountered life's storms either personally or among those close to them, from redundancy to sudden death, relationship breakdown to terminal illness.  Being reminded that God is quite big enough to be shouted at seemed a good thing to be acknowledging, as did the challenge to Christian denial of struggle.

When we returned to our list, and people were invited to think of things that affected whole communities, we were able to pick up topical connections: many local businesses struggle and shops are closing; families or friends are affected by war or terrorism.  Even our own recent experiences have been of a community facing struggles.

Psalm 137 is an odd mixture - the start which once found its way to the top of the UK singles chart and the horrendously violent ending that sounds like incitement to religious or racial hatred.  It allowed us see something about how whole communities can struggle together and about the risks of being open about feelings.  Whilst God is not going to grant requets for violence towards another race, it is easy to see how pain or even justified anger may lead to sinful responses.  Very briefly we touched on terrorism and its links with religion, but more thought about how Jesus reacted to those who crucified him - seeking forgiveness not revenge.

On reflection, I think the timing of this service was right - people did need permission to shout at God and to be alerted to the risks of allowing anger to turn to bitterness or hatred.  Through our hymns and songs we found some signs of hope to balance the gloom, without going over the top into either denial or triumphalism, e.g. Graham Kendrick's 'For the joys and for the sorrows' and the old Boys' Brigade favourite 'Will your anchor hold'. 

Next Sunday we look at 'new hope' with Psalms 40 and 96.  It has been an interesting little sereis to work on, and I hope has brought some useful insights to our folk.

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