Dear Christ Church Family,
The current events of the Pandemic have brought many things we usually take for granted, and other things we just ignore, into sharp relief. Most of us are lamenting the new conditions and restrictions upon our lives. Some of our laments are trivial, but others run deep. Our Scriptures are calling to us today, to make one lament in particular our focus this week.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 55
Some thoughts on Lamenting. Since the beginning of Holy Week, our Old Testament Lessons have switched from the story of Moses and his (eventually) triumphal battles with Pharaoh, to the Lamentations of Jeremiah. This is Israel come full circle: from triumph and glory, to utter desolation. Jeremiah has warned the political and religious leaders that their treachery toward their own people, and their double-dealing in the realms of power in pursuit of personal gain, is a direct betrayal of God. For this they have come under judgment and destruction, and the nation now lies in ruins. Though Jeremiah has foreseen all this and prophesied it, he himself is now devastated. He finds that all that is left to him is to lament the loss of his beloved land.
In the face of this Pandemic, I find that I have been lamenting loss too. Though, I confess, my losses do not nearly approach the level of Jeremiah’s. For the most part, my laments are over the loss of convenience: getting to use the Metro, dropping into a favorite restaurant, just “popping” in and out of a store. I do have a few that go deeper: my lament that I cannot play with my grandchildren, even though they live just minutes away now, my lament that I cannot worship face to face with you in our Sanctuary, nor talk with you in our Parish Hall, nor meet together with you at events and other gatherings. I thrive on such connectedness with others. I know that all of you do as well. All of us are lamenting these deeper things right now.
But one lament has caught me up short, causing me to rethink my own “misfortune.” There’s a group of folks whose faces I am missing suddenly. They are the poor who used to gather in knots of community on the steps of the local branch library on 7th, or near the street corners on 8th, or scattered about around Eastern Market. With many, I had regularly reached into my pocket to help a little here, or a little more there. With some I had also shared a prayer. With a few I had shared conversation and a blessing. Nearly all the folks I had come to recognize have disappeared. Where? Do they truly have a “where” to be? Of the stragglers still left “out there,” perhaps lacking a “where,” I still try to help, but Social Distancing, and my own fears for self-preservation, keep us from real connection. As I go on my way, I can’t help but wonder, “How long have they got?”
This is the lament that compels me to rethink my own misfortune. It is what drives me to the words of Jeremiah, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me…” (Lam 1:12)
In confronting these words, I am suddenly, now, driven even deeper into lament. For these very words are descriptors of the lament and suffering of Jesus. It is Holy Week. Made holy by the terrifying sacrifice of one who loved us, has loved us, still loves us, so much so that he willingly endured that horrifying death for the sake of that love. In Jesus we see clearly just how far God’s love will go, how much God will sacrifice, to win our love, to draw us back into God’s love. Jesus’ lament, God’s lament, is for the brokenness of our world, the suffering of our lives, the plight of the poor and forgotten. That lament has a redeeming answer: God’s love. That love has a healing purpose: to draw us together in love to love each other, then send us out in love to love the world.
Now, at least for the days that remain in this week, our deepest lament is to be for Jesus. Jesus asks, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by…? Make your prayer be, “No, Lord! It is everything to me! I will stay with you. I will watch with you. I will pray with you.”