Psalm 34:15-22

The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the LORD hears them
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the LORD will deliver him out of them all.
He will keep safe all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The LORD ransoms the life of his servants,
and none will be punished who trust in him.

We are living in a time of great loss. Most tragically, of course, there is the loss of so many lives to this deadly virus. But the losses we are experiencing extend into nearly every aspect of our lives. An unprecedented number of people have lost their jobs and now face great economic insecurity and anxiety. Some are confronting the loss of significant life events. So many students preparing for graduation are facing the reality that in-person ceremonies won’t be possible and that they might have seen dear friends for the last time without even the chance to properly say goodbye. Countless weddings have been postponed. I’ve talked with people who are grieving the fact that they couldn’t be with a loved one as they were dying, and I’ve talked with grandparents who are lamenting the fact that they can’t visit and hold newborn grandchildren. The effects of this pandemic touch all aspects of our lives.

To say that it’s all so difficult feels woefully insufficient, and many of us are struggling to cope with all the loss we are experiencing. For me, I felt this loss quite acutely on Easter Day and the night before, times when under normal circumstances we gather as people of God to celebrate with joy and splendor the most sacred and festive time of the year. This year in the solitude of my home I missed being with you in community. I missed the joy of singing with others. I missed sharing in the sacred meal of the Eucharist. But I also feel the loss in the ordinary rhythm of my week—when meeting online with colleagues when we would normally be together in person; when looking out on a Sunday morning into an empty cathedral that is usually so full of joyful people.

And so this day the words of the psalmist strike me in a particularly powerful way: ‘the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed.’ There are so many broken hearts, and we are reminded that God is among them. I think of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene when she weeps alone at the empty tomb. I think of Jesus coming to Mary and Martha as they grieve their dead brother Lazarus and weeping himself at the grave of his friend. I think of the woman condemned for adultery and humiliated by the religious authorities being greeted by Jesus’ words of compassion and mercy. I think of those times in my life when Jesus has been so near to me in the midst of sorrow and great difficulty.

These words do not magically fill or heal the loss we are experiencing. They don’t heal this deadly virus. But they do assure us that God is very near to us in our grief and will save us when our spirits are crushed. In the midst of such loss, God is with us and will never leave us.

God bless you,

Almighty God, in the midst of things we cannot understand, help us to trust and believe in your love and presence with us, and that as your Son Jesus Christ drew near to his friends in their grief and sorrow, may he draw near to us in the same way. Amen.