Bible Study: Lamenting Together
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. 7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. 9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
Opening Prayer: Loving God, we come from our own homes, our own lives, our own work, and become your people in this place. We see the kingdom of God among us. Guide our study and our fellowship, our laughter and tears, our faith and our uncertainties. Our faith is in you alone. Amen
As defined, lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, that may include wailing, moaning weeping, crying or a complaint. Israel has been taken captive by Babylon. Their daily lives are not the same. They have been removed from Jerusalem, from their temple. Yes, they remain the people of God, but that just isn’t enough. They lament. In their minds Jerusalem and the temple is where God lived. They think they have been separated from God. Their captives make fun of them and their God.
“Sing us some of those silly songs that used to make you so happy”. The last two verses are a curse, and cannot be thought of as words of God. The psalmist laments and is expressing his anger. “If you’re not going to help us, them please destroy them.”
As Christians, we found ourselves lamenting when 9-11 happened. Those events are forever imbedded in my mind. At 7:00 that evening, North Buffalo’s sanctuary filled with members and friends who came to pray and ask God “What was happening and why” Today we lament over the plague of covid virus and it’s variants. We lament both individually and as a group, both types of laments address God. Both describe the situation or complaint or crisis from which the lament emerges.
Contemporary laments are moments in time that bring people together; school shootings, disasters in nature such as floods, hurricanes, horrific accidents, and public marches. Biblical laments are addressed to God. Contemporary ones are addressed to anyone who is able to make the requested change. Lament events may be the occasion when individual laments become communal ones. What happens to the community when the march or event is over.
Paul answers that Question in Romans 12:4-5 . For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. He clearly states that when we follow christ, we don’t lose our identity by becoming part of a collective group. Instead, when we follow Christ, we contribute our strengths and depend on the strengths of others to balance our weaknesses. When one rejoices we all rejoice, when one laments we all lament. Lament gives us common ground.
We are grateful, holy God, that you give your children the gift of each other. May we be knit together, bear one another’s burdens, and express our shared sorrow in shared lament, remembering that we are not alone. Amen.
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We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.