"God, why have you abandoned us forever? Why does your anger smolder at the sheep of your own pasture?" (CEB)
Have you ever cried out something like this to God? Psalm 74 was written after the destruction of the first Temple -- the center of the community for the Jewish people. It seemed impossible that God had permitted a foreign people to destroy their place of worship, cultural center, and symbol of their national identity. The Temple that seemed to hold life together, that held meaning, was gone. Why had God abandoned them? We may be at a point in history when we can better understand their sense of the loss of the center that held life together. Our assumptions about our ability to overcome any hardship are being tried as perhaps they haven't since World War II. This psalm, Psalm 74, may hold some clues to us about not only the sense of abandonment and the loss of our center -- but perhaps even a suggestion of what it may look like to refuse to accept that sense of fragmentation. There was more to the Jewish people than worship at the Temple -- MUCH more. And there is more to who we are as a nation than our much-lauded independence -- MUCH more. Worship will not be on-site this weekend. Stay tuned for more information. You will receive a second Weekly Witness this week with details on how to worship -- together but separately. In the middle of a pandemic, we might ask a similar question. Where are you, God? Why is this happening? This is the theodicy question again: Why do the innocent suffer? A tendency to see God as the cause of suffering was common in the ancient world. They believed that the bad things that happened were punishments from God. That's why in the book of Job, his "friends" are urging Job to admit to his fault so that God might be merciful.