I recently heard Rabbi David Horowitz describe the Kaddish, an ancient prayer recited regularly in Jewish worship services and originally known as the Mourner’s Prayer, as a prayer for those who proclaim, “In my hurt, I am willing to praise God.”
When he said these words, I saw in my mind’s eye all those throughout the ages who, amid their oppression, abuse, exile, discrimination, and pain, stand and stumble to say, “In my hurt, I am willing to praise God.”
If we need further evidence that these people and these prayers exist, we need look no further than Psalm 100. A song of thanksgiving and praise to the Shepherd who leads and guides, rescues and restores, Psalm 100 testifies to God’s great love for God’s people.
Psalm 100 is a communal hymn that offers straightforward instruction for the congregation: Make a joyful noise; be glad; give thanks; know that the Lord is God; know that the Lord is good. Amid all sorrow, heartache, grief, and pain, gather with the community and praise God.
Though straightforward, these instructions are not easy for those who know the pains this life can bring. Therefore, when singing this psalm and praying this prayer, we never stand or sing alone. The Mourner’s Prayer or Kaddish is communal, meant to be recited in the presence of a person’s community of faith, just as this psalm is meant to be sung with all people who know of God’s goodness and love.
Holy God, we come into your presence with singing; we will make a joyful noise as a witness to your goodness and love. Amen.
The Bible uses metaphors meaningful in its time, and the image of a shepherd and sheep evokes protection, care, and safety. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God declares that all the scattered sheep will be joined together again. The weak and oppressed will receive special protection and justice from God. The psalmist says that the Israelites are the sheep of God’s pasture. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes the final judgment as separating the sheep (those who are his) from the goats (those who are not). The distinction is made in part based upon how they treated the weakest among them. Although the epistle does not use the imagery of sheep, it describes the promises of a glorious inheritance reserved for those in God’s flock.
Read Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. What does it mean for you that God seeks you as an individual and as part of your faith community?
Read Psalm 100. In times of trial or pain, how do you gather with others to praise God?
Read Ephesians 1:15-23. How do you express gratitude to God and for your faith community?
Read Matthew 25:31-46. How do you sit with unresolved questions of faith? How does asking questions of the Bible strengthen your faith or your comfort in not having answers to your questions?
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