Going Deeper 06.23.2021

The first reading for Pentecost 5... Lamentations 3:22-33
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

In his commentary on this text, Professor Brennan Breed points out that this is the only reading from Lamentations we ever hear in our three-year cycle in worship.  With that being the point, our folks might wonder why the title is so sober.  Breed gives this summary of the context of our text: The book of Lamentations was written by and for people who had survived an unimaginable trauma with personal, political, social, and theological dimensions. What if everything you relied upon for your security, comfort, identity, sense of God’s presence, and hope in the future simply vanished overnight? For the residents of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, who watched the Babylonians smash the walls of Jerusalem, burn down the temple, knock down the houses in the city, and execute the Davidic royal family, the world seemed to lose all sense of order and coherence. Life suddenly felt chaotic, brutal, meaningless, and hopeless. These emotions and the questions that arose from the traumatic destruction of Jerusalem are reflected in the book of Lamentations. 

In gathering as children of God in the context of our church families, it is very important that we honor the expression of the whole range of human emotions. Too often we feel as if we have to put on a happy face lest we look weak, or worse-- ungrateful for the blessings of God.  Yes, we do gather to celebrate the greatest of blessings, our salvation through the loving grace of God.  But sometimes life still hurts.  Sometimes we are confused or feeling hopeless, or we are just plain angry.  The Bible (read the Psalms) is full of expressions of the whole range of human emotions.

The message of hope so beautifully expressed in the opening verse-- "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness"-- is far more powerful when understood in this context.   Hope shines brightest when spoken into the context of darkness and despair.  We do well to create an environment where God's children can process all of our emotions within the context of our faith community.  To do so, we must be good listeners, and not try to talk people out of their feelings, but learn to speak the words of hope when the time is right.

With You in His Hope,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"