The psalmist tells us, "weeping...linger[s] for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Except that isn't always true, is it? We're in the middle between two of the biggest events of the year for St. John's. Last night was Relay for Life, a culmination of incredibly hard work by many people of this congregation and across the county as we continue to raise funds for cancer research, and this upcoming Friday will be the Baroda fireworks, when more people will be on the church grounds than Christmas and Easter combined.
So what about all those people last night and all those who will be here later this week? "Weeping...linger[s] for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Hundreds walked around the Berrien County Youth Fairgrounds in a never-ending relay for life, to be sure. Hundreds of stories circulated through the crowds: memories of the loved ones who died because of cancer, and yet just as many stories of miraculous triumph. And yet I have a feeling that for both ends of the spectrum, when it comes to cancer, for those no longer with us and those who survived, I don't believe for a second that the weeping only lasted a night. Instead, the tears lasted days, weeks, months, and even years for some. After hearing the initial news from the oncologist of the test results that would change the remainder of their life, they of course had to remain strong for their family, and their family had to do so in turn for them. Nevertheless, no matter how hard they tried, some broke down uncontrollably; out of anger, frustration, depression, fear, and everything in between. Sometimes the only thing to do is weep in the face of such a debilitating disease that not only tears individuals but entire families and congregations and communities apart. However unfortunately far too many people are convinced they must refrain from shedding a single tear in front of others, leading them to unleash the outpouring alone, with only God as the witness.
Now come this Friday night, there will be immense excitement, perhaps even too much fun for many as we approach the Fourth of July. On the other hand, there will be others who must always relive the price they paid for that freedom, for the precious privilege we have to sit in our lawn-chairs and watch works of fire burst in the sky. There will be those who served in our military, whose minds always force them to relive their service: relive the bombs, relive the gunfire, the crying shouts, even the loss of their closest friends in the fields of battle. Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the last things we will think about when the skies get lit up Friday night, but it is as much of reality as the freedom we are so incredibly blessed with in this country: veterans who will not weep in front of us, but who weep in their minds night after night, as their horrible nightmare is relived time and time again.
And so weeping does not always end after a night; sometimes it lingers for a lifetime. Where is the joy for them that is supposed to come with each new day? Where is their hope? We as the church, as a community of faith, have been overwhelmingly blessed by God to bring that hope to life. We as the church have been blessed with these precious grounds, so that we can provide a space this Friday night for hundreds to gather, from all walks of life, from all different stories of hardship. And we will join together as a community, united by this God Whose Son raised up a church, and an entire Creation. We will join in laughter and music and the utter simplicity of sitting side-by-side in celebration of freedom.
We as the church have also been richly blessed with a life of resources to share and help with a cause that still seems so out of reach. Millions upon millions of dollars continue to be poured out into cancer research and yet still no cure. However that pain-staking research has indeed saved lives. It has indeed made hope possible for so many we know and even more who we will never meet. And again, God raises the church up to provide the space: to do something as simple as making food to eat, and sit at tables to hear the stories of cancer: some of weeping, and some of joy.
God uses the church to provide the space for people to come just as they are, with all their human stories: some they wish to share, and some not so much. Regardless, they are loved. Regardless, God says they are worth dying for on the cross. Regardless, this space is for them, as it is for all of us. Weeping may linger even longer than a night, but through a story of the most powerful joy in Jesus Christ we will do our part to walk alongside every person who feels as if there is no hope. God will use our shoulders for them to cry on. God will use our church to help them realize they are not on this journey alone. God will use us to make the Resurrection of our Lord come to life with each new day, so that joy may indeed come in the morning, not only for us, but for all children of God. And so for the ultimate joy of Christ's victory over all the suffering of this world, for the gift of everlasting life now and forevermore, we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon