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A Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow

This week, we are grateful to share a liturgy from Douglas McKelvey’s upcoming Every Moment Holy, Vol. II: “A Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow.” And not only is the text of the liturgy now available—Annie F. Downs has shared a special video reading of the liturgy as well.

Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I find this burden of loss too heavy, and shrink from the necessary experience of my grief.

Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely the living gifts this day might hold.

Let me neither ignore my pain, pretending all is okay when it isn’t, nor coddle and magnify my pain, so that I dull my capacity to experience all that remains good in this life.

For joy that denies sorrow is neither hard-won, nor true, nor eternal. It is not real joy at all. And sorrow that refuses to make space for the return of joy and hope, in the end becomes nothing more than a temple for the worship of my own woundedness.

So give me strength, O God, to feel this grief deeply, never to hide my heart from it. And give me also hope enough to remain open to surprising encounters with joy, as one on a woodland path might stumble suddenly into dapplings of golden light.

Amidst the pain that lades these days, give me courage, O Lord; courage to live them fully, to love and to allow myself to be loved, to remember, grieve, and honor what was, to live with thanksgiving in what is, and to invest in the hope of what will be.

Be at work gilding these long heartbreaks with the advent of new joys, good friendships, true fellowships, unexpected delights. Remind me again and again of your goodness, your presence, your promises.

For this is who we are: a people of The Promise—a people shaped in the image of the God whose very being generates all joy in the universe, yet who also weeps and grieves its brokenness.

So we, your children, are also at liberty to lament our losses, even as we simultaneously rejoice in the hope of their coming restoration.

Let me learn now, O Lord, to do this as naturally as the inhale and exhale of a single breath:

To breathe out sorrow, to breathe in joy.

To breathe out lament, to breathe in hope.

To breathe out pain, to breathe in comfort.

To breathe out sorrow, to breathe in joy.

In one hand I grasp the burden of my grief, while with the other I reach for the hope of grief’s redemption.

And here, between the tension of the two, between what was and what will be, in the very is of now, let my heart be surprised by, shaped by, warmed by, remade by, the same joy that forever wells within and radiates from your heart, O God.



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