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Lament and Rejoicing.

Philippians 4:4 clearly is a command to Rejoice - Always. How is that humanly possible - especially when faced with the terrible things that happen that can only be described as tragic. How does the believer marry these two seemingly polar opposite responses to what life throws at us.

There is in the Bible the Hebrew book of Lamentations - which is read during the fast day of Tisha b'Av (9th of Av [Hebrew Month]) It is a period of Mourning for observant Jews, when they mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. On Tisha b'Av (Wednesday 2nd August 2017) It begins at sunset of the previous evening, when we gather in the synagogue to read the Book of Lamentations. Besides fasting, we abstain from additional pleasures: washing, applying lotions or creams, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Until midday, we sit on the floor or on low stools.

We also know that Jews commemorate the terrible evil of the 20th Century - the Holocaust. This is also an annual looking back and feeling the pain of a nation and a people who were deeply wounded - by the incarceration and genocide of Jewish people, and other groups too (including disabled and homosexual men), in Nazi concentration camps. 

So year in and year out, Jewish people look back and reflect on and feel the pain of these awful tragedies and injustices perpetrated against their nation. But even they acknowledge that it is not all solemn misery, even in the midst of these solemn occasion, they leave scope and permission for joy. There are certain Mitvahs which require the consumption of wine, which cannot be put off. One of those is a brit (circumcision of an eight day old son) 

Consumption of meat and wine is permitted on Shabbat, or at a seudat mitzvah (obligatory festive meal celebrating the fulfillment of certain mitzvot) such as a brit(circumcision), or a siyum celebrating the completion of a course of Torah study (i.e., a complete Talmudic tractate). The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory initiated the custom of conducting or participating in a siyum on each of the Nine Days (even if one does not avail oneself of the dispensation to eat meat).
Chabad Teaching about Tishab'Av - From Tragedy to Joy This link has a long video teaching of a Rabbi - 
The almonds that were bitter have become sweet.  Interpreting Jeremiah's vision in Jeremiah 1.  When writing about hard memories whether on a very personal level or on a wider scale such as these commemorations, you don't want to make light of things, as if you are not taking it seriously, but that said, I think most religious philosophies I have come across, have a view of things will ultimately be sorted out and better things will come. That is the hope of Christians, with the Secoming of the Christ.
The Rebbe said that they should participate in a siyum each of the nine days - so during the deepest time mourning during the three weeks - there was a celebration. 
As Christians, we view joy not as merely an emotion, but as fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and we are called to rejoice - that is celebrate - because our lives are in Christ. We have this hope, But notwithstanding our cause for hope and rejoicing, we should recognise that we still experience the pain of injustice and tragedy, and it is entirely appropriate to mourn the pain, the loss and the tragedies. 
How do we, as Christians, or as people, respons when tragedy hits and as we remember these tragedies. 
Today, there is a commemoration of one of the heaviest battles of the First World War, Passchendaele (in Belguim) The battle took place 100 years ago - it started on 31 July  and concluded on November 10th and there were very many killed in that bloody battle. From what I read, the battle is not got many redeeming features. Lloyd George described Passchendaele as "one of the greatest disasters of the war. 
So why do we keep on talking about it - surely we should laccentuate the positives - let's talk about the vitories and not think about the defeats. Let's use broad brush strokes when comes to the less happy news - and be upbeat - why do we "commemorate" our losses when, after everything is said and done, the victory was ours (speaking from the perspective of the British of course) . 
I think these commemorations are extremely important for many reasons, but one big reason, is it honours lives and the sacrifice of those who went to war to defend their shores. This is not endorsing or agreeing with the war, but once war is declared, people need to defend, and in so doing, people lay their lives on the line and many did during that 102 day battle. Their fight, brought about our freedoms - is it possible that we could have our freedoms, had there been no war to fight - its hard to say. So I think times of reflection about the injustice and tragedy of war are important as well the times when we celebrate the victories. 
Another thing we are commemorating and remembering is the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Secual Offences Act - that partially decriminalised homosexual acts betwwen adult men in England and Wales. It was far from adequate in and of itself and did not put an end to homophobia, but it was the beginning of a long process that still has some way to go, if looked at on a global scale. It reminds us that gay men were persecuted by State and Society. 
In recognition of this, I attended an excellent service at St Martin's in the Field in Central London. It was an ecumenical service that was addressed by the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, Revs Canon Mark Oakley. The title of the service was Where Love and Sorrow meet. 
Revd Sally Hitchener towards the end of the service, made the observaion that many young LGBT people take for granted the freedoms that they experience today to be themselves and perhaps don't consider the pain and persecution experienced by previous generations who fought the battles, and bore the scars, both litteral and emotional of those battles that ultimately culminated in the freedoms that these young people take for granted. It is an irony, she said that the right to be yourself as an LGBT person (although this can extend to many other categories of people), was only accomplished because someone fought against the injustice of that right not existing. And she admitted she sometimes wanted to make the young people understand about every blow and insult that previous endured along the way to the freedom that we experience today. 
I think there is definitely scope for the commemoration of this act, not because it in itself solved the problem, but it represented a significant change in direction. It is also, an opportunity to educate people about how things once were. I think, that if we are better informed about history, and not an airbrushed history (for fear of upsetting children) but an honest recounting of how things once were, will make people more appreciative of their present freedoms. 
It is not so we can wallow in misery about bad things that happened a long time ago, but a remembering that things have not always been as they are now, and that we should be aware that things have not always been like this. 
Like Jews do during the three weeks that lead up to Tisha b'Av, we can solemnly remember the injustices inflicted on people and mourn them, but we can also remember that hope gives us reason to look forward to a time when all injustice will cease, and God will be in complete control. he can therefore be hopeful, but we can also try and remember, that in the midst of the sad memories, we are connected to a just and merciful God whose mercies are new every morning - in other words - God's love and mercy for us is constant - not variable and conditional as many people seem to think. 
I would like to conclude with a stanza from the opening the opening hymn at the service at St martin's in the Field - it wass written by Frederick William Faber and the first line is "There's a wideness in God's Mercy" 
For the love of God is broader than the measures of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own
and magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own. 

There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed
There is Joy for all the members in the Sorrows of the head
There is grace enough for thousands of new worlds as great as this
There is room for fresh creations in that upper home of bliss.


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