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"If Love Would Only Let Me Go" by Rev. Dr. D.H. Clark

In thinking about the words I wanted to say today in this brief moment of sharing, the phrase that stayed in my mind is:

If Love Would only Let Me Go.

Love, perhaps God’s greatest gift to humankind and God’s very essence has immeasurable power, both in the universe as well as within each of our souls. But I ask the question, is it ALWAYS our nature to desire to be held under the sway of such a powerful force 24/7?

Most, if not all, of the painful experiences in life, those of such immense impact that they cause us to lose God and flail about asking: “O God, why have you forsaken me? O God, where are you?” are the direct offshoot of love. Grief is an inexorable result of love. If we don’t love, we don’t grieve. We grieve because we have loved. When this pain seems unbearable, we might well ask love to let us go, just to find some ease and peace.

This is a moment such as St. John of the Cross, a medieval Spanish mystic had when he penned the poem “Dark Night of the Soul,” part of which our Psalter today is based. Thought perhaps to have been imprisoned in Toledo, he had found himself separated from God. Whatever the reason, he suffered a complete spiritual drought. As expressed in his poetry, John found his way back to God through love.

This is the final stanza

(As) I remained, lost in oblivion;

My face I reclined on the Beloved.

All ceased and I abandoned myself,

Leaving my cares among the lilies.

The deep abiding love of our Beloved, our Loving God is what waits us in the morning of our long dark night. Oftentimes it is that same love that we sense we have lost that sends us into that night, so long that we might well wish love to let us go to end our pain.

Rev. George Matheson, 19th century Scottish minister, experienced a time of severe suffering, the cause of which he shared with no one, pastoral burn out perhaps, or pain so deep he did not want to burden his congregation with it. In his journey to refind love, in the span of 5 minutes, he penned the powerful hymn, a setting of which the choir will sing today, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” We share his path to healing when we understand that God’s love does not let us go. Part of that journey begins with ridding ourselves of our long-held theodicy, which is the theological problem of trying to explain why bad things happen in a world under a loving God’s control. What is God’s purpose in this suffering?

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his famous book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, tells us that his beliefs about God changed over time. He says: “Let me suggest that the bad things that happen to us do not have a meaning.” God does not magically alter forces of nature either as reward or punishment. Events so unendurable as the loss of a child, never were and will never be a part of, (Quote, unquote) “God’s plan.” But God stands beside us, holding us in strong, loving arms when we cannot stand on our own, weeping with us in our grief, and granting us the grace to live into life’s fullness with the weight of our pain shared by our loving family of faith-God’s love manifest in the here and now. God’s love that will not, and should not, let us go.

The love which surrounds us, God’s family, becomes the field of lilies among which we scatter our grief. We who suffer must be willing to leave our cares among the lilies, and the lilies, God’s loving family, we must bloom; we must make love palpable to those who suffer. We are God’s way of showing the true power of love.

Thank you, God. Thank you, Love, for not letting us go.

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