We’ve spent the weeks of Lent looking at the idea of lament.
This week, the last one of Lent, we’re going to ponder the end of lament.
What will it be like to no longer need to lament?
First, read Isaiah 2:2-3 and Isaiah 25:6-10. Just click on the scripture to open it up in a new window. This passage is a prophecy from Isaiah. God has set a celebratory feast upon a mountain. Sadness will end, and death will be defeated. All we must do is wait for this to happen.
Next, read Revelation 21:1-8. Again, click on the scripture to open it in a new window. This portion of the book of Revelation is a description of a vision of God’s new kingdom. Note that “passed away,” according to our study, does not mean that the old heaven and earth were annihilated. They were instead transformed into the new heaven and new earth.
As you read these passages, you may have noticed how hopeful they are in the future. We lament because we have hope for the future. We trust that God is able to bring about a future like those we’ve just read.
I think it is important to consider part of this future that we hope for. The descriptions in these passages talk about what the future will not have. It will not have tears and sadness. It will not have injustice. It will not have death.
We might picture heaven as having mansions and gold streets… but we picture it being somewhere else! But creation will be redeemed as well as humanity. I’ve never been a huge fan of the heavenly mansions, so I quite like this picture. It looks like a restoration to the garden of Eden, except it won’t be only the garden. It will be the whole world! There will not longer be somewhere outside the garden to be expelled.
More importantly, we will always have the presence of God. He will be right there. There will be no perceived absence of God, and thus no reason to lament.
Jan Bruegel, the Elder. The Garden of Eden. (c. 1610-1612).
A part of lament that we’ve discussed is that we can lament in our life’s circumstances. We show our trust in God by crying out for His help in our day-to-day lives. We’ve also looked at lament in song.
For this final lesson, the book suggested the hymn “Life Every Voice and Sing.” The words were written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson, a leader in the civil rights movement. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, set those words to music. As you listen to one or more of the versions below, consider both the lament and the hope in the words.
This hymn is still telling a story of both lament and hope. People are still writing songs and poems that feature both lament and hope. In a daily email subscription that I receive, Father Richard Rohr discussed one recent example of a poem. (If you read our weekly Sunday School lessons, it also goes nicely with our recent discussions of prophets.) Take a moment to read his thoughts here on the poem, "The Hill We Climb." If you would like to read the poem, you can follow this link.
Right now, we all have reasons to lament. But we also have hope for the future, where we will no longer need to.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
you have brought us thus far on our way.
Though the road continues out before us, you give us hope:
Hope that our work will bring your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Hope that you will walk beside us every step of our journey.
For your unfailing love for us, and the hope you give us, we give you thanks.
Our trust is in you.
Opening Prayer: God of the tabernacle and temple, buildings can stand only if they are built on a strong foundation. As we study, may our faith be strengthened into an unshakable foundation on which we can build our lives. Amen
These two readings discuss Jerusalem at different times in history.
In Lamentations, Jerusalem has been destroyed. The people wonder if their faith is lost. they believe the city is lost.
Scripture: Lamentations 5:1-22
Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace. 2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. 3 We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows. 4 We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price. 5 we are weary and find no rest.Those who pursue us are at our heels; 6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread.7 Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment.8 Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands.9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert.10 Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish from hunger.11 Women have been violated in Zion, and virgins in the towns of Judah.12 Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders are shown no respect.13 Young men toil at the millstones; boys stagger under loads of wood.14 The elders are gone from the city gate; the young men have stopped their music.15 Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.16 The crown has fallen from our head.Woe to us, for we have sinned! 17 Because of this our hearts are faint, because of these things our eyes grow dim18 for Mount Zion, which lies desolate, with jackals prowling over it.19 You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? 21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old 22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.
In verse 1 we notice the use of us and our.
Verse 16 & 20 People acknowledge their sin as the source of the situation, and challenge God, demanding to know why God seems absent.
Verse 21 communicates despair - that God will have rejected the people once and for all with no opportunity for redemption or renewal
Jerusalem is not lost forever, final destruction is decades away.
Scripture: Luke 23:26-31
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
We don’t know who these women are. They might be friends or professional mourners. Jesus tells “them to Weep for yourselves and your city.”
Bruce Springsteen’s song “my City of Ruins” was written to revitalize Asbury Park, New Jersey It has become a song of revitalization for many cities.
We have many laments in life. “Some day the Earth will Weep”
Trust in the God of hope when we lament over our polluted waters our polluted air, our polluted oceans. We lament over broken families, We lament over events in our lives.
No matter if we lament individually or as a group,
ALWAYS lament in hope.
This week, we will discuss the lament of creation.
We’re going to move away from thinking about people.
Instead, we will think of things like plants, animals, and even the earth.
Before we begin, think about your answers to the following questions. What are the places in creation that call you to praise God? Is there one place in particular, over all others, you want to go?
When I thought about this question, I was reminded of Rev. Mason’s recent sermon on The Thin Place (which you can watch here). The big idea was that some places can make you feel closer to God. Those places are the thin places.
Scripture: John 11:28-37
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The
Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she
got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but
was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had
been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and
went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at
his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her
also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you
laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man
have kept this man from dying?”
It is probable that Lazarus’s family and friends had been gathering since the day
Lazarus died. The story of Jairus’s daughter is similar. The child was reported
dead before Jesus responds.
Jesus begins to weep. Why do you think Jesus would mourn and lament
something he could change? Jesus was fully human and fully divine. This is a
situation where he shows how fully human he is. [Jesus fully understands your
grief and our mourning.]the death of a person is a usual occasion for weeping, in
scripture and in life. Jesus said “Greatly honored are those who mourn” (Matt.
We are sad when a loved one is gone from our lives. That’s mourning. Is it the
same as lamenting? Both have sorrow, suffering and grief in common but the
common elements of lament are: God is addressed, the grievance is described,
a statement of faith in God is made, something is asked (demanded ?) of God -
there is a call for God to act, an assurance of being heard is made. Mourners
don’t ask for God to act and change the situation. Lamenters do. Eva Pickovà
wrote a poem of lament while in the prison camp of Terezin. it proclaims a will to
live and work and have a better world.
No, no, my god, we want to live!
Not watch our numbers melt away.
We want to have a better world,
We want to work - we must not die!
We are to trust in the God of hope: 1 Corinthians 15:54b-55
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The central message of our faith is:
With his resurrection, Christ breaks death’s hold on humanity. When we come together on Easter we celebrate joyfully. We should celebrate Easter every Sunday,
Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
This joy is an undercurrent in our lives, even and maybe especially in times of sorrow. When our brothers and sisters are in times of tears, it is our privilege to remember and speak the promise of resurrection for them.
God of life, you have sone for us what we could
not do for ourselves. You have brought freedom to us when
we were captive to death. May we choose to live, forgiven and
freed by you through Jesus Christ. Amen
This week, we are considering two very difficult topics:
lamenting death and lamenting life.
First, think about someone suffering because of the death of a loved one. How can we help them remember the promise of resurrection without negating what they are currently feeling? Take a minute to think about this. It is okay if you don’t have an answer yet. Keep this question in the back of your head while we work through this lesson.
Now read John 11:28-37. Just click on the scripture, and it will open up in a new window for you to read.
This is probably a familiar story: Lazarus has died, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, are mourning his death. We absolutely expect that Lazarus’s sisters would be mourning! In this scripture, we also see something else that is expected. Mary says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Is Mary’s response a lament? There is absolute faith that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. But this is past tense. Mary does not ask for what she really wants, her brother to be back with her. There seems to be an acceptance of the finality of death. She thinks there is nothing else Jesus can do. If you are familiar with this story, you know that there is something that Jesus can do. He resurrects Lazarus.
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.
What is lament? From the dictionary, a lament is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow,” and to lament is “to mourn.” Laments are directed toward someone who has the capacity to change the circumstances, or correct the injustice.
Biblical laments are prayers. They can be spoken, sung, painted, or communicated in some other way to God. Lament is a response to a momentous occasion of grief over which we have no control.
This is an important point. If the injustice or suffering that we lament is something over which we have control, we should do something. If we do nothing, the faithful response is to confess and repent, not lament.
Lament is a response to the suffering, sorrows and injustices of our not-yet-redeemed world. In lament, there is hope.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.