“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How Long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” – Psalm 13: 1-2; 5
Dear brothers and sisters of lament,
This is the first day in the season of Lent. It is also the day after another mass shooting. The third worst school shooting in American history. Here in our state. Clergy I know are tending to the work of offering a word of healing to hurting families and members of the community. Stoneman Douglass is a school I know from watching their teams compete for six years in the lyrical storytelling sport of colorguard. One of their members was killed. Some of our members grew up in this community, went to school there, have friends who were teachers still locked away in a room with their students as we began our service of repentance last night.
I sent my husband off to school, realizing he is an administrator on the front lines now. I don’t think you can tell me in this situation, I’m being overly dramatic. I talked to Sam about the reality of “run, hide, fight” as I dropped him off under the watchful eye of a deputy sheriff whose car lights were flashing at the front of the school. 17 dead. More injured in the hospital. The safest community in Florida, has now lost their place on that list.
Lent is the 40-day practice of self-examination leading us with Jesus toward the cross and resurrection. We cannot truly understand resurrection until we have stood at the foot of the cross to watch how God and the gospel message clearly showed how LOVE WINS. Disciples walk this journey to remember the cross of Christ is a cross that bears our sin. Part of this journey is the discipline of Lament.
Today’s culture, doesn’t do lent, repentance, confession or lament very well. Rev. Gary Mason, our friend and theologian from Belfast often speaks of American worship with a word of caution. Over 30% of the Psalms are songs of Lament, yet our worship today centers only on praise and worship and absent are the songs of Lament. We lift up praise and thanksgiving. We sing and talk about grace and relationships but the hard stuff…not so much.
Lament: To mourn, express sorrow and regret. Our crying out to God asking, “How Long, O Lord” should lead us as disciples through a journey of rest, remembrance and onto repentance, restoration to move us toward true reconciliation. Heidi Weaver, in her blog on the 4 Steps of Lament writes: Our rest and remembrance drive us not just to the sorrow of repentance, but to action which attempts to right the wrong, even while knowing that no forgiveness is owed to us.
Sunday, we are invited to make the first leg of the journey with Christ toward Jerusalem and stop for a while in the wilderness. Mark’s gospel depicts this pivotal story of Jesus in just a few short verses. Mark 1:12-15 has nothing to do with our modern wilderness “glamping”, but speaks of wild animals and fasting. This Sunday we begin to practice the discipline of Lament. The wilderness will challenge us to understand how Love wins through the embrace of vulnerability. A vulnerability that empower us to go deep, remember, repent in order to create a holy space of discontent to lead us as Christ’s students toward action. Our action to right the wrongs is how IMPACT happens; it is the moment when the gospel of Christ’s cross and resurrection collides with our sin to break through with Love that defeats darkness.
Pray for the families and community of Parkland. Pray for our leaders to react, respond, and work toward something, anything: smarter laws, better communication and restrictions of some kind, more mental health help for people and the protection of the innocent. Pray for the action God may be stirring up in you to be part of the impact. Pray and hear and listen for God’s holy discontent to disrupt your weeping and move you to act. As hard as it may be, pray for the shooter and for God to take hold of his heart. Come to worship and join Jesus in your wilderness. Do not rush the journey, or take a plane straight to Easter, waiting for the rest of us amongst the lilies and spring. For this is the route to ensure Love Wins.
In solidarity with the lament of our hearts,