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February 9

Lamentations 3, 1 – 9

Something to read

I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me sit in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has put heavy chains on me;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
he has made my paths crooked.

Something to think about

This is loss that we can barely comprehend. It is a shaking of the foundations of life.

For the writer, the familiar landscape is changing – not just the physical but the intellectual and spiritual landscape - and he is losing his bearings. He has been exiled from all his certainties about the world, most of all his certainties about God. 

The experience of exile is part of the Scottish collective memory. In the 19th century, many thousands of Scots were driven by hunger or cleared off the land into industrial cities, or even out of Scotland altogether, often to the other side of the world.

They sang the same psalms and songs of exile as the people of Israel, as refugees and forced migrants have done in many times and places. They remembered what they had loved and lost, and they lamented.

Their hope was for return, and a return to God's favour. There was always the assumption that the land itself would still be there, unchanging in its reality.

But that assumption is no longer true for the people of the Maldives, whose islands home is likely to be drowned as sea levels rise with climate change.

Already they are exploring the possibility of a new home for a whole population. The trauma involved in such a relocation can only be imagined. Such drowning will affect islands and coastal cities across the globe.

Even in their deepest despair, emigrants from Scotland, like the people of Israel, discovered that God had not shut out their prayer, that new ways opened up for them.

Christian Aid works with individuals and communities across the world who have endured the terrors of war, the uncertainties of exile and migration, the devastation of climate change.

We do this to be in solidarity with the God who opens up new ways through the desert of despair.

Something to do

Are there refugees or asylum seekers living in your area? Find out what you can about their stories (or the stories of those living in other parts of the UK). Try to imagine their journeys of relocation. How might you help to open up new ways for them?

Something to pray

Creator God
we give thanks for the earth which nourishes and sustains all that lives.
Renew in us the sense of its value
that we may not squander its riches,
or so bend it to our will that we find we have destroyed it.
God in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Today’s contributor is Kathy Galloway, Christian Aid’s Head of Team in Scotland, a practical theologian, activist and writer, and member, and former leader, of the Iona Community

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