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Divine Pathos and Recommendation 56

By June 27, 2012 5 Comments

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God…
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

-T.S. Elliot

(Picture: Kathe Kollwitz’ “Lament” (2318-1940) )

I am usually a woman of many words. The Word is my profession and I am constantly searching for better words to proclaim the Word. Today, I am a woman of few words and a heavy heart. I had another blog lined up for today but it doesn’t seem appropriate in light of Recommendation 56 that was voted on at the Reformed Church in America General Synod. I’m lamenting and I know I’m not the only one.


The Psalms are rich full of lament poetry that is real and honest. The writers of Psalm 3, 13, 35, 85, 142, etc… teach us how to approach God and be emotive truth-tellers. The Word of God shows us how to live into Rumi’s advice when he writes “Cry out! Don’t be silent with your pain. Lament!” Lament allows us to name our disappointments and root them in trust of God and God’s faithfulness. Lament helps us see hope, honest hope.

Divine Pathos

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s writings offer me perspective, weekly. In his book The Prophets he writes that the central theme of the prophets of the Old Testament was their “fellowship with the feelings of God, sympathy with divine pathos, a communion with the divine consciousness which comes about through the prophet’s reflection of, or participation, with the divine pathos.”[i]  Later he notes that pathos “denotes, not an idea of goodness, but a living care; not an immutable example, but an ongoing challenge, a dynamic relation between God and man; not mere feeling or passive affection, but an act of attitude composed of various spiritual elements; no mere contemplative survey of the world, but a passionate summons.”[ii]  God feels deeply with us. If we are emotional creatures and we are created in the image of God it makes sense that God is also an emotional God – lamenting, rejoicing, feeling with us.


So I’ve been wondering what does God feel about General Synod? What does it mean to have fellowship with the feelings of God and sympathy with divine pathos this week? Could God be rejoicing with those who are rejoicing and lamenting with those who are lamenting? Could God be grieving because we have missed the mark entirely? Could God be rejoicing because we are on the right and true path? Are we awake enough to even discern the movements of God and God’s heartbeat of love for all God has created? Do we even know how to incarnate the greatest commandment “Love God with our whole heart, with our whole soul and with our whole mind…and love our neighbor as ourselves”? As of right now, I’m not sure I have decent responses to these questions. But I think these are good questions for us to begin asking ourselves as we wonder where was God and what was God feeling in the midst of General Synod?


Grace and Peace-

Rev. JKK


[i] Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, Page 31.

[ii] Ibid., 289

Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.


  • chad farrand says:

    I am lamenting, disillusioned, dismayed and confused. I am also certain. Certain that I am no different than I was on Monday morning. I am certain that the rule of love, mercy and grace still wins in the end. I am certain that we are all made in the image of the Creator. In the words of Rich,"I can't see where God's leading me, but at least he's led me here. To the place where I'm lost enough to let myself be lead." Today, I'm praying for peace in me while I see others smile with this "victory" and for patience to be still enough to listen for an answer to my question, "now what?" I desperately want to show the love to those who refuse to include everyone to the table. Right now, I'm pretty weak in all these desires. A new day is coming, and I can be sure that I will be on the side of those with no voice on this day.

  • Grace says:

    Congratulations the RCA can officially write its name in Sharpie marker on the LGBT Wall of Homophobic Churches.

    I guess the next question is … Who will stay and wear that badge in front of their children and grandchildren and who will go?

    It will be interesting to watch.

  • Al Janssen says:

    In another place, Dan Meeter astutely noted that we are now "dolorende" — sorrowing. The allusion will be caught by many readers of this blog. It described the followers of A. Kuyper in the eighteenth century as they "sorrowfully" withdrew from the national church. I agree with Dan — and that I differ with Kuyper's followers in that I will not leave (although some may find they have no choice).

    My fuller response to the synod's action can be found in my post on There I called it an unwise (and unloving) decision.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Actually, nineteenth century.

  • Al Janssen says:

    Yup, nineteenth century. I get confused because we're in the twenty-first century, and I haven't left the twentieth!

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