Listen & Lament

[title]

A theology and practice of lament contributes to shaping our relationship with people, particularly from other life experiences, ethnicities and cultures. 

Lament confronts our tendency toward a posture of privilege, handing out or up, to the marginalized, or people we perceive as lesser.[1] 

The practice of corporate lament, during worship services and other smaller gatherings, is a way of acknowledging our collective shortcomings and wrong doings.  “Public acknowledgement of past sins,” as Rah entreats, “is a powerful way of confronting past racial injustice.”[2]  Lament gives credence to what people are actually experiencing in real life, and the space to either express it, or be present as a witness to it.  Lament confronts the sub-text of church-going, Christians are happy and without care, held up by the scaffolding of shiny shoes, well-groomed hair, effortful smiles, and hollow “how are you?” greetings.  However, as one renowned Old Testament scholar rightly warns, “only in the empire are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend that things are all right – either in the dean’s office or in our marriage or in the hospital room.”[3]

We have had a few prayer and lament services in the past few years.  These services dispense with the regular sermon element of our liturgy, and rather spend time in prayer, testimony and lament.  However, we have struggled both with the content of these services and with keeping them in our schedule.  In this series, working through the book of Lamentations, inspired by Soong-Chan Rah’s book, Prophetic Lament,[4] and Kathleen O’Connor’s work,[5] will be central to developing both a robust theology of lament, and the practice of it. 

Some of the theological contributions of lament, as pointed out by O’Connor, an Old Testament scholar who has plumbed the depths of pain and promise, include a theology of witness and the sacredness of suffering.  Lament challenges us to struggle with paradoxical portraits of a loving God and the appearance of silence or abandonment.[6]

To lament is not to be without hope.  On the contrary, working through the many and varied aspects of biblical lament provides a deeper understanding of God and faith.  “The riddle and insight of biblical faith,” as Walter Brueggemann asserts, “is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings.”[7]  Lament paves the way for hope. 

It is here, in the places and spaces of lament wherein I join the congregation, an opportunity not to be missed by any pastor, preacher or friend.  I need to lament and have hope too.  I am a participating prophet of imagination and lament.  If it is in these times memories are indelibly imprinted, perhaps new memories, of relationship, sacrifice, hope, Jesus and His cross, will form and be recalled, as we Listen and Lament.

 

[1] Soong-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 20.

[2] Soong-Chan Rah, Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church (Chicago: Moody Publishers), 47.

[3] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination 2nd edition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), 11.

[4] Soong-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 224 pages.

[5] Kathleen O’Connor, Lamentations and the Tears of the World (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2002), p. x-16; 83-147.

[6] Ibid., p. 106, 116.

[7] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination 2nd edition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), 56.

Date Sermon Speaker Scripture Supplement Study guide Audio
Feb 17, 2019 Lost in Conflict and Contradiction Garry Koop Lamentations 3:24-66 View
Feb 3, 2019 What Comes To Mind? Garry Koop Lamentations 3:1-23 View

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Jan 27, 2019 Hell Hath No Fury... Garry Koop Lamentations 2:1-22

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Jan 20, 2019 When Devastation Befalls... Garry Koop Lamentations 1:1-22 View

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