And yet

Pastoral Messages | April 16, 2020

In these days of social distancing and spending lots of time in my house, I have looked to people in our congregation to teach me how to do this. For some of our community, having to stay home is nothing new. For months, sometimes years, they have “sheltered in place” because of compromised immune systems, or challenges with mobility, or chronic illness. They have wisdom to share with us about how to faithfully navigate these days at home.

There’s a pattern I have heard from many of them – both in phone conversation and through emails. It begins with an honesty about how hard things can be. They truthfully name the reality of their experience and feelings. I am lonely. I’m disappointed. This is painful. I’m angry. I’m worried about my neighbors, my family, this world. It’s not a pity party, but an honest reality of what’s going on in their heart, their bodies, their world.

And then, always, there is a shift. A breath. And then they say: “and yet, I am grateful. I get Meals on Wheels every day. My kids check in on me. There’s this tree in bloom outside my window. I’m reading this amazing book. This hymn was in my head all day.” There is honest struggle and then. . . “and yet, here are things for which I am grateful. Here is evidence of God’s faithfulness.”

Perhaps without even knowing it, these friends of ours are patterning these prayers and emails after the psalms, particularly the psalms of lament. There are these psalms full of the spectrum of human feeling – agony, anger, sorrow, despair, grief. “My bones are shaking with terror” (Psalm 6:3) and “my tears have been my food day and night (Psalm 42:3) and “why, Lord, do you stand so far off? (Psalm 10:1). These psalms give us permission to honestly feel, to tell the truth of our experience.

And then – these psalms of lament make a turn, their own kind of “and yet.” They reorient us back to God and God’s faithfulness, “But, God, You do see! Indeed You note trouble and grief, that You may take it into Your hands. (Psalm 10:14) and “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me. Hope in God, for I shall again praise the Lord, my help and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

These faithful ones (both the psalmist and our homebound friends) teach us about how to live with honest hope in these days. They show us how to tell the truth, acknowledge the reality of our struggle, but also to keep on turning back to the hope we know in God. We can name how hard things are, but then also say, “AND YET, here is the joy, the blessing, the goodness.” It’s a struggle and yet, still, I can be grateful. God is still faithful.

This is the Easter season. The reality of global pandemic and so much uncertainty are mixed right into our Alleluias and joy. We stand on the promise that while death and suffering and tears are still here, they are not the end. Easter is God’s great “and yet” to the world. Yes, things are hard AND YET, Jesus rose from the grave, conquering death and all its derivatives. Suffering is not the end of the story. Nothing can keep God’s love from bringing us to life. This Easter season let’s honestly lament and name the reality of our experiences. But remember those laments are answered, always, by an empty tomb.

And yet, Christ is Risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

-Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor


10 Comments on “And yet”

  • joy crane

    April 18, 2020 at 1:28 am

    thank you pastor sara

  • Nicole Kelso

    April 17, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    I’ve been thinking often lately that we each have hidden or rusty talents/skills/coping mechanisms we’ve learned in past experiences that are presenting themselves as useful (to ourselves, our families, neighbors and community at large) during this time. Thank you for pointing out another group of people whose experiences can now teach us.

  • Marcia Willi

    April 17, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you Pastor Sara, for the encouraging words in a time of sadness and anxiety. I am SO grateful for all of you and our church family. Anticipating our togetherness soon?

  • Jerry Zinn

    April 17, 2020 at 11:22 am

    Great message Sara for times such as these. Being at home as much as this, I have become a domestic of sorts, cleaning this and that, polishing cabinets of all kinds, doing more yard work than usual ( when it is not covered with snow ) fighting with a rabbit that wants to dig a big hole right in the middle of my front lawn. And yet, I find myself thanking God for what I have, and for what I have lost; which at times I am still coming to grips with. I hope that anyone who reads this will be able to turn to or call those they love and tell them about their love, not only for them, but for Jesus Christ. May God bless, JZ

  • Heather Gosma

    April 17, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Pastor Sara…I don’t know exactly what to add to the wonderful messages from dear St Paul friends and your beautiful message . I’m thankful that the message has been out there long enough to allow for such living and inspiring comments! You all and our dearest Father and His Son have truly blessed me from the inside out!!!

  • Vicki Felger

    April 17, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Dear Pastor Sara, this narrative was exactly what I needed to read this morning and your words touched my spirit! Missing the comfort of human touch with family, friends and church, I needed to remember the “and yet’….they are all still there as close as Zoom! Thank you….beautiful words!

  • Kelly Anderson

    April 17, 2020 at 6:01 am

    Thank you Sara. “And Yet, we will all be together again. And the renewed love and appreciation will be beyond measure.”

  • Jeanne Withycombe

    April 16, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    This was great,Sara. Connecting me with my major goal these last months. It’s the “and yet”. No matter how often the tears, sorrows, Or worries come, it is always something I have that brings me back. And…I have so much to be grateful for. Thanks for reminding me once again.

  • Bonnie Fox

    April 16, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you, Pastor Sara. During this pandemic, I’ve had to continually remind myself to be grateful for what is working. I wasn’t in touch with my loneliness until a stranger waved to me on my daily walk today and it felt good. And yet…..I forget to pick up the phone and chat with those who could use a call. ?

  • Audrey Keeney

    April 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for these words. They speak truth and comfort.

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