Lenten Prayer Service
“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
When the trees are shaken and bending
And my head is pressed to the wind;
When the sun falls and my heart is in shadow
And the earth is hard under my feet;
I leave for the track through the foothills
For the bush that is silent and still,
Where totara1 lie ancient and fallen,
At peace with their scars and their death;
Where the ferns have no fear of unfolding,
Nor the sky, of the kauri2 and beech;
I find in this bush that is wordless,
Where light is at ease with the dark,
A greening on paths that are endless
And earth that gives speech to the heart.
—Erice Fairbrother, Aotearoa/New Zealand
1 Totara is a conifer prized by the Maori for its timber’s durability and length.
2 Kauri is also an evergreen, the world’s oldest wood.
Meditation and Time of Sharing on the Word from the Cross
- The scripture reveals to us that Jesus is human. It is his last human act before his death and resurrection.
- We often wonder where is God in the midst of suffering from natural disasters, like the tragedy in Japan last year, or man-made disasters, such as the civil war in Sri Lanka. We can try to rationalize suffering through the explanation that we cannot understand the mystery or plan of God, but this explanation seems not very satisfying. In the midst of any suffering, it is difficult to comprehend God’s will.
- Some people try to explain the role of God in the midst of suffering in a different way that casts God as a God of compassion, love and kindness and is more in harmony with the God of the New Testament. This explanation is reflected in a poem that is familiar to many of us, “Footprints in the Sand.”
Footprints in the Sand
One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, You said that once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My son, My precious child, I love you, and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
- When the pain is our own and we ask why God has forsaken us, perhaps we should turn the question around and ask why we have forsaken God. This may be closer to the truth.
Fragments of a Psalm (Psalm 102)*
Turn your ear to me; when I call, listen to me.
My days are like smoke.
My bones are like burning coals and searing heat.
My heart is weak. I am withered, like grass;
I forget to eat my bread.
I am like a vulture in the wilderness;
Like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake;
I have become like a bird alone on a rooftop.
I tell myself all is well,
And yet you have searched my heart
as I lie awake.
. . .
Old games of childhood storm past the dyke,
grown men speak like a child, put on childish things
Harm is buttoned up with the coat of denial
And I am like an owl among the ruins.
I am like grass withered.
May your justice flow like a mighty river.
Heal what is broken. Help me return to myself
that my joy may be full.
Do not let me remain here like a vulture in the wilderness.
—Ray McGinnis, Canada
In the dawn
You walk toward me
When I am confused
You shower me in Love
In the darkness
You bestow light
When I am hesitant
You show me Your Words
In my days
You grant a mission
When I am weak
You lend me Your Power
You are by my side
When I am suffering
You offer me the Cure
You increase my strength
When I am in pain
You grace me with Peace
In all my life
You leave your footprints
When I am empty
You give Your All
—Shi Dongxia, China
* Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community
Bruce Van Voorhis works in Hong Kong for Interfaith Cooperation Forum [ICF], a regional network of young Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and indigenous activists working for justpeace at the grassroots level in South and Southeast Asia. ICF is a joint program of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs [APAY] in Hong Kong where Bruce is based and the Christian Conference of Asia [CCA] located in Chiang Mai, Thailand.