How I welcome those times when we can laugh and dance

What an incredible yet in many ways pain-filled experience it was to visit all that was on display and all of the events which unfolded at Fulton Montgomery Community College last week:

The Vietnam Traveling Wall

Rededication of the Memorial to those of our tri-County area who died in that conflict

Dedication of the new 9/11 Memorial

Presentation of photographs taken in the aftermath of 9/11 on display at the Perrella Gallery

Then, on the evening of Sunday, September 11, members of our Jewish and Christian faith communities gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown for a service “Remembering 9/11 Hope after Grief.” It was a time to reach beyond the tears and anguish of our loss that we might embrace the future with renewed confidence and hope.

How we needed the promise of hope, for all of those special events and programs offered ample opportunity to weep and mourn. Perhaps, as we seek to embrace God’s gifts of love, peace, faith and hope, we can once again find time to for laughter and dance.

Until that time comes, when we can again laugh and dance, we are reminded how God acknowledges our tears and mourning. This weekend, those who gather in Christian churches which read from the Common Lectionary will hear the Prophet Jeremiah mourn for his people (Jeremiah 8:21 9:1):

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears,

So that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!

Are not Jeremiah’s words timeless and timely? And as to a comforting ointment, the balm, of which Jeremiah spoke, people of faith know to Whom to turn – the One Creating, Redeeming and Empowering God Who blesses us with a Presence which can fill any hole in any soul.

That brings us to what it means to be part of a community. A sense of community was present last week at the Vietnam Traveling Wall, albeit it with an overwhelming sense of loss and how futile conflict and war are so very often. It was in the spirit of community that so many of us gathered to rededicate the Memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. As to the 9/11 Memorial, was that not an opportunity to recall how all us in this nation experienced a sense of unity, of community in the wake of that tragedy that our mutual loss brought us together in a rare moment of accord.

Finally, it is in our communities of faith, in our synagogues, churches, and mosques that people gather to share joys and concerns; laughter and tears; gains and losses; births, deaths and all moments in between; faith and doubt. In coming together for worship, fellowship, ministry and mission, we also come to know that the One God is present with us, joining us in all of our life experiences and yes, weeping with us when that is what a moment invites us to do.

A week ago, it rained just before the Rededication of the Memorial to those of our three counties who died in Vietnam. Then the rain cleared, the sun broke through, Vietnam War planes did a flyover followed by that of a helicopter. In my Prayer of Invocation, I suggested that as the rain reminded us of God’s tears, so the sun reminds us of God’s promises. But those promises are real only when we fulfill them on behalf of God when we promise one another to live in the ways of grace, hope, peace and love.

There is a time to weep and mourn, but as a people of faith, we know and welcome those times when we might laugh and dance.

May you know laughter, dance, grace and peace,

“A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance .” Ecclesiastes 3:4

Ralph English is Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Gloversville. On September 11, 2001, LtCol English was Wing Chaplain of the 107 AW at Niagara Falls, New York.

How I welcome those times when we can laugh and dance

What an incredible yet in many ways pain-filled experience it was to visit all that was on display and all of the events which unfolded at Fulton Montgomery Community College last week:

The Vietnam Traveling Wall

Rededication of the Memorial to those of our tri-County area who died in that conflict

Dedication of the new 9/11 Memorial

Presentation of photographs taken in the aftermath of 9/11 on display at the Perrella Gallery

Then, on the evening of Sunday, September 11, members of our Jewish and Christian faith communities gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown for a service “Remembering 9/11 Hope after Grief.” It was a time to reach beyond the tears and anguish of our loss that we might embrace the future with renewed confidence and hope.

How we needed the promise of hope, for all of those special events and programs offered ample opportunity to weep and mourn. Perhaps, as we seek to embrace God’s gifts of love, peace, faith and hope, we can once again find time to for laughter and dance.

Until that time comes, when we can again laugh and dance, we are reminded how God acknowledges our tears and mourning. This weekend, those who gather in Christian churches which read from the Common Lectionary will hear the Prophet Jeremiah mourn for his people (Jeremiah 8:21 9:1):

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears,

So that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!

Are not Jeremiah’s words timeless and timely? And as to a comforting ointment, the balm, of which Jeremiah spoke, people of faith know to Whom to turn – the One Creating, Redeeming and Empowering God Who blesses us with a Presence which can fill any hole in any soul.

That brings us to what it means to be part of a community. A sense of community was present last week at the Vietnam Traveling Wall, albeit it with an overwhelming sense of loss and how futile conflict and war are so very often. It was in the spirit of community that so many of us gathered to rededicate the Memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. As to the 9/11 Memorial, was that not an opportunity to recall how all us in this nation experienced a sense of unity, of community in the wake of that tragedy that our mutual loss brought us together in a rare moment of accord.

Finally, it is in our communities of faith, in our synagogues, churches, and mosques that people gather to share joys and concerns; laughter and tears; gains and losses; births, deaths and all moments in between; faith and doubt. In coming together for worship, fellowship, ministry and mission, we also come to know that the One God is present with us, joining us in all of our life experiences and yes, weeping with us when that is what a moment invites us to do.

A week ago, it rained just before the Rededication of the Memorial to those of our three counties who died in Vietnam. Then the rain cleared, the sun broke through, Vietnam War planes did a flyover followed by that of a helicopter. In my Prayer of Invocation, I suggested that as the rain reminded us of God’s tears, so the sun reminds us of God’s promises. But those promises are real only when we fulfill them on behalf of God when we promise one another to live in the ways of grace, hope, peace and love.

There is a time to weep and mourn, but as a people of faith, we know and welcome those times when we might laugh and dance.

May you know laughter, dance, grace and peace,

“A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance .” Ecclesiastes 3:4

Ralph English is Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Gloversville. On September 11, 2001, LtCol English was Wing Chaplain of the 107 AW at Niagara Falls, New York.

By -