A Lament for the City
The Lament is an exquisite literary form that expresses something deep in human experience. There are times when it seems appropriate for a lamentation: such as when we saw the Twin Towers fall in
So too those who live in
We will remember
And so the lamentations of human kind are all too pervasive in history. Can we find a way to sing the songs of our lamentation to God that can bring us hope or do we only find despair in our human experience?
Jesus tells us all we need is the faith of a mustard seed to make the mountains move. And Jesus goes one step further. He assures us that we already have enough faith to take us all the way to our deepest hopes. The greatest mountain to be moved is the rock that was moved away from the tomb in which Jesus lay.
Alleluia! The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Thus the Lamentation is written in the human heart and in the heart of God as something to remind us of something larger still. The Lamentation is only one verse in the Song of God. This week let us sing on toward the place where God’s hope and ours meet even when it begins with the sorrow of our common Lamentation.
Imagine if you will what it would be like to be taken “en masse” from our homes and placed in slave labor for an enemy under force of arms. Imagine if you will, our faith taken away from us, and our holy places left in a heap of ruins. Imagine generations and generations of our people thus kept for many, many years. That is exactly what did happen to the children of
One after another, the prophets railed against the corruption of the Kings of Israel. Each king was a little worse that their predecessor, according to the record of the kings and the theological proclamation of the prophets. And to be faithful to God meant to tell the truth, even if it was at the cost of personal freedom and safety. Jeremiah and a host of prophets were thus quite shabbily treated by their own people. It is remarkable that their writings have reached us.
It was in the crucible of this kind of conflict that the Lament was developed as a literary art form. To be able to be so utterly honest with God in our spirituality, ultimately also assists in the discovery of the grace of hope.
The alternate Psalm for the day, Psalm 137 is another articulate lament, but in this case it culminates in a dreadful imprecation on the enemy.
Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, *
and dashes them against the rock!
Understandable to be sure; it was entirely likely that
“We are more than conquerors, through him who first loves us”. All these echoing phrases come to us in a song of God, whatever fear of terror we face. These are good days for us to remember the courage of Christ and his early followers. We live in an age of fear and terror that will require tremendous courage.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that it will take but the tiniest seed of faith to move mountains; he goes on to say that we have that faith already, if we read the Greek phraseology correctly. Faith is a gift. It is absolutely free and with it we have conquered death and sin itself. What a gift! As we look to Jesus and ask for more faith, he looks back at us and tells us it is already there, sewn in our hearts by the free gift of his life.
In the year before the current “Intifada” in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I took a group of young people to the
The last century and now this new one is witness to far too many instances of genocide. What is occurring in
In our own experience, we have fought in
What we have yet to do, is find a way to articulate an honest song to God about the times in which we live. We seem bereft of an honest spirituality. If we could form a lament in our hearts that we could sing with our lips, then perhaps we could find our way to God. If we were to do that we’d also find another song of hope that would lead us to peace with justice for many.
After 911 we did come together for a little while. Our national leaders gathered as one at the National Cathedral and spoke with one voice. It lasted all too briefly. We seem to have lost our way and our resolve has become diffuse. We are not a united nation. And now conservatives blame liberals; liberals blame conservatives and all the talk show hosts vent their spleens at American people who dare to disagree. What will it take to save the nation?
CRAFTING THE SERMON
It must grieve the heart of God to see the human family behave so. In so many ways, and at so many times the very Name of God has been put to use to excuse our inhumanity to one another. Somehow a sense of righteous indignation seems to excuse terror and warfare, bigotry and violence.
It must grieve the heart of God to see the human family behave so. God sent the prophets to preach justice and peace. The very word peace, shalom and salaam, gave birth to the name of God’s own holy city
Is it any wonder that the Lament has found its way into sacred literature? To be sure human beings do sing their songs of sorrow, but can you imagine God’s song when the blood of those same children spills into the sands and stones of
Jesus came to give us the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus came to teach us to love our enemies. It is a difficult ministry. It may require the gift of a life. It required the gift of Jesus’ life to purchase the price of forgiveness. We are loath to pay the price, aren’t we? There are far too many willing to take our lives with glee for us to play into the hand of calumny and cruelty.
Perhaps if we were to sing sooner the song of God, we could find a way to Peace. If we could find a way to an honest articulation of Lamentation, then perhaps God could act. Perhaps God could direct our feet in the pathways of peace by showing us how to talk to one another. Better still perhaps God could help us by teaching us first to listen to one another.
Military action, political power, and diplomatic initiative are all part of a seamless piece when placed in the hands of God. Placing these matters in the hands of God is often the last thought of the expert in these disciplines. We ask God to be on our side and seldom honestly ask if we are on God’s side.
It is so easy to blame “the other” through our failure to see the humanity in the flesh and blood of our brothers and sisters. Some may wonder what color God is. Perhaps God is the color of
God created the whole world according to the creation accounts in Genesis. Therefore it stands to reason that the color of God is far more diverse in hue than merely one particular color. As God sees the globe it has no national borders. As God created human beings there is only one flesh and blood, one heart for all, and one hope for all, and only one love to make everything possible.
When we were in the
Thus we come to this moment in time and still we need a savior. Moses taught us obedience through the law. The Prophet Muhammad taught us that God is the All Merciful. Jesus taught us that God is the All Loving.
We are a disobedient, unmerciful, and unloving lot because we refuse to listen to those God sent to us. May God have mercy on us ALL!
Perhaps there is time for us to sing the song of God’s own heart of sorrow as we mourn the terrible losses that we and God have suffered. If we sing that song with any skill we will learn to listen to the hope of God for a new tomorrow. Perhaps we will get a glimpse of the Dream of God to take the human hearts of stone and make it a heart of flesh and blood that beats with love for the whole human family.
We are servants of God as the Gospel points out. It is our duty to sing our song in such a way that serves God’s purposes on the earth. It is our duty. May it be said of us that “We have only done what we ought to have done”.
Thank God that the Lament is part of our sacred literature. May it teach us the way to God’s broken heart so the healing balm of God may help us sing on to other verses where the hope and love and forgiveness of God gives us all a way to Peace and Justice for all.