Tag Archive: Sorrow


This was the homily I preached this morning based on Psalm 118:14-29 and Benjamin Britten’s cantata “Rejoice in the Lamb.”

There are images circulating around the internet right now that I’ve seen seminary pals posting on Facebook that say, “what do you mean Easter is over?!  Easter lasts 50 days!”  But it’s easy to forget after all the glorious celebration of Easter Sunday that we get to continue the party.  And part of this means being able to rock out the “hallelujahs” again!

The Lenten ban on “hallelujahs” or “alleluias” is something that I really try to uphold, but it gets hard because I love music.  Even with pop music, I’ll be singing along in the car, feeling the music, bopping along, and then I realize that I’ve let the forbidden word slip.  Oops.  One of these songs is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which has been covered by everyone and their brother.  You’d think that with a title like “Hallelujah” I’d be able to see it coming and restrain myself, but it’s still really hard because it’s a great song!  It is, however, a melancholy kind of song – the kind of song that makes me well up and want to let out all the emotion in my soul.

Music can do that to you.  It can carry you away so that you say “hallelujah” even in the middle of Lent or it can move you to tears.  And speaking of great music, we’re going to hear some fantastic music in just a few minutes.  In reading over the text of Benjamin Britten’s piece, which is printed in the bulletin and was written by Christopher Smart, I was at first a wee bit baffled by the lyrics.  But as Gerry and I discussed the piece, I became really moved by what it was saying.  One part of it that really caught me were these lines:

“Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah from the heart of God,
And from the hand of the artist inimitable,
And from the echo of the heavenly harp
In sweetness magnifical and mighty.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”

First of all, Christopher Smart’s poetry is mysterious and beautiful.  Second, I was hooked by this idea of a “hallelujah from the heart of God.”  What does that mean?

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word.  Well, actually, if we want to get technical, it’s two words – “Hallelu” and “jah.”  And this phrase is a command that means “you all praise God!”  So when we shout “hallelujah,” we’re really saying “ya’ll praise God now!”  It’s an exclamation – something that is not just for us, but that is meant to draw others in.  “You all praise God” so that we can join our voices together in praising and worshiping God, just like a choir.

But what would “hallelujah from the heart of God” mean?  I think it means something incredibly profound.  I think it means our praise of God doesn’t start with us.  It starts with God.   This may sound like a really foreign concept for us, but it shows up in the psalms as well.  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  By the LORD has this been done; it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. … You are my God, and I will thank you; you are my God, and I will exalt you, Give thanks to the LORD, for the LORD is good; God’s mercy endures forever.”

Psalm 118 is part of the praise psalms whose primary purpose is to praise and glorify God.  And the writers and singers of these psalms praise because God is who God is.  They give thanks and exalt the Lord because of who they know God to be and because of what God has done.  They give praise and bear witness to how God has been active in their lives in order to point to God and to share the goodness of God.   They shout “hallelujah” and command “praise God,” inviting others to join the song of praise.  They invite them to be a part of the chorus of hallelujahs by sharing with others what God has done for them.

We even see this in the Gospel of John: “now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  All that we hear in this Gospel is written down so that we may come to believe in and worship Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.  All these amazing things about Jesus’ life, miracles or signs, death and resurrection have been written down in order to invite us to believe.  All these things that have come from the loving heart of God and have been graciously and generously given to us – these things invite a hallelujah.  What we’ve experienced as the goodness and mercy from God’s own heart should evoke a hallelujah – our praise of God.

In all of this, the question is this: do we give praise and shout hallelujah in order that we, as well as others, might believe?

When I am struggling with unbelief, or doubt, or missing out on that encounter with God, I recall what God has done in my life and in the lives of those I know.  I listen to the stories of others who are praising and bearing witness to God’s action in their lives.  This hearing and remembering what God has done helps to spark gratitude and praise in my life.  It helps me to continue believing – and as we hear in the Gospel of John, it’s through this believing that we have life to the full in the name of Christ.

On Wednesday, I watched a TEDxChange event that was put on by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  TEDTalks are devoted to “ideas worth spreading” – sharing ideas in order to make a difference in the world.  At Wednesday’s event, several speakers and poets took the stage, but the topic all were focusing upon was “positive disruption.”  The speakers spoke about ways of positively disrupting the world in order to make a difference – whether through better health care for women, contraceptives, or famine relief.

But I love that phrase “positive disruption.”  I think that’s what “hallelujah” is in our lives.  It’s a shout.  It’s a word you want to blurt out.  It’s a positive disruption or interruption in our lives in that it shakes up our doubts, sorrows, and difficulties and fills us again with gratitude, praise and joy.  It’s the word that bursts the tomb and offers us Christ, standing before us saying “peace be with you.”  It’s the word that causes us to think about what God has done.  It’s the word uttered from another’s lips that causes us to remember God’s goodness even when we feel far from God.  It’s the word that energizes us and helps us remember that we are invited to live our lives as responses to God’s love.

Today, may we let our hallelujahs burst forth in our words, prayers and songs.  May we let the Spirit stir up in us those hallelujahs that were born in the heart of God.  May we, with our hallelujahs, invite others to praise God.  And may we continue the celebration of Easter all our days.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

© 2013. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

“Hosanna in the highest!” Even thought I’m not a Jesus Christ Superstar fan, I can’t help hearing this song in my head whenever the word “hosanna” comes up:

What is always fascinating to me about this song, and this Sunday (Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday), is that we quickly go from praising Christ to reading the passion story, putting ourselves in the place of the crowd. Let me explain that a bit. The song is happy and upbeat, but it has almost a menacing undertone which grows in intensity over the course of the song. Likewise, we begin waving palm branches and shouting “hosanna” to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, but how quickly our cries turn during the liturgy to shouts of “crucify him!” I find this puzzling and powerful, sobering and also dramatic.

We hear the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and I’m always amazed at how quickly the tide turns – from joy and acclamation to angry mobs and the death of the one we call Savior. Likewise, Psalm 130 (and so many of the psalms) oscillate between lament and hope, sorrow and joy:

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

This psalm is both a plea for help and forgiveness as well as a song of praise for and trust in what God can do. It flows between knowing what God could do (mark iniquities) to declaring what God does do (forgive). God’s forgiveness, mercy and redeeming love take over rather than judgment. Rather than getting what we deserve for the sins we’ve committed, no matter how large or small, we receive the gift of grace. It’s because of this that we can “revere” God. Some translations even have “fear” instead of “revere,” indicating a deep awe for God and who God is.

I’m still processing this psalm as well as Palm Sunday, but I’m happy that they’re causing me to think and that they can’t be figured out in a few days! We’re now entering Holy Week and in order to be ready for Easter, I am going to try memorizing Psalm 145, which is rather long. We’ll see how I do!

Father, grant us insight and clarity this Holy Week as we meditate on the life, death and resurrection of your precious son, Jesus. We give you thanks for his coming into the world and his dying and rising for our sake. May we take the time to listen to you and what you would teach us during this week. Draw us closer to you and fill us with your Holy Spirit that we might be renewed and strengthened for service to you and to our neighbors. In the name of Christ Jesus, AMEN.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Transformative Moments

Into The Light

“Do you want to be transformed by me?”
You ask, already knowing the answer.
My heart leaps and shouts, “yes!,”
But, sadly, my reasonable mind begins to whirl.

“What would I have to change about myself?
Would I lose myself – my personality – completely –
Be someone I’m really not and regret it?
Would I have to stop having fun or being lighthearted?”

You smile. You knew this would happen.
“Do not be afraid,” you reassure me,
And I know in an instant I am a fool
For fearing that which I’ve been thirsting after.

“You will have to change for sure,
And it will be difficult and challenging,
But you will not be losing your personality,
Rather becoming closer to who you really are.

You were created to share love, joy and laughter,
To be with others in happiness and sorrow,
To give certain gifts to the world,
and to see the gifts others have been given.

And I am working in and through you,
In order to bless creation and work good in the world,
Though sometimes it may be hard for you to see,
Or nearly inconceivable for you to believe.

But do not be afraid, beloved child of mine,
Be gentle and see yourself as I see you.
I am here and if you want to be transformed,
Know that it will happen, but not overnight.

I will work through the simplest of things –
In silence, in the words and faces of others,
In music and art, in prayer and in nature,
In struggles and celebrations, sadness and hope.

To see what I am about, keep your heart open.
Listen to that still small voice that tugs,
Quietly and persistently at your innermost being,
Even though the world would try to drown it out.

Revel in the ways in which I will surprise you,
And share with others what you have experienced
So that you might hear what I’m doing in them.
Trust one another and trust me.”

You smile and stand there patiently,
Not rushing or hurrying me to an answer.
My heart aches and I know that all you say is true.
I open my mouth to speak, slowly uttering:

“I just don’t know how to let go.
All I can do right now is sit with you.”
Your smile broadens – I almost cannot believe it.
“Yes, dear one, that is more than enough.”

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

The Savior Calls

Beautiful Christ, my Savior and Lord,
I hear your voice in the crisp fall air,
Calling softly, “Come and follow,
I have sought you with love and care.

I bore the world’s sin and sorrow –
I walked a path no one else could trod,
that you might have life to the full,
and spend it in the love and peace of God.

Though you turned away from me,
and quickly followed your own ways,
I’ve been always by your side –
I’ve walked with you all your days.

I ask you now to turn and see,
My pierced hand outstretched to you,
Take it and trust that I’m still here,
Forgiving, patient, steadfast, and true.”

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Fall Foliage At The Maryland Renaissance Festival

In The Midst

In the midst of despair,
you are there.
In the midst of suffering,
you are there.
In the midst of pain,
you are there.
In the midst of confusion,
you are there.
In the midst of grief,
you are there.
In the midst of frustration,
you are there.
In the midst of anger,
you are there.
In the midst of sinfulness,
you are there.
In the midst of doubt,
you are there.
In the midst of brokenness,
you are there.
In the midst of sorrow,
you are there.
In the midst of sickness,
you are there.
In the midst of hate,
you are there
In the midst of disbelief,
you are there.
In the midst of injustice,
you are there.
In the midst of weeping,
you are there.
In the midst of night,
you are there.
In the midst of death,
you are there.

In the midst of hope,
you are there.
In the midst of celebration,
you are there.
In the midst of pleasure,
you are there.
In the midst of clarity,
you are there.
In the midst of happiness,
you are there.
In the midst of satisfaction,
you are there.
In the midst of peace,
you are there.
In the midst of righteousness,
you are there.
In the midst of trust,
you are there.
In the midst of wholeness,
you are there.
In the midst of joy,
you are there.
In the midst of health,
you are there.
In the midst of love,
you are there.
In the midst of faith,
you are there.
In the midst of justice,
you are there.
In the midst of laughter,
you are there.
In the midst of day,
you are there.
In the midst of life,
you are there.

Wherever we are, you are there with us.

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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