Dear St. Lukers,
As we move toward this Sunday and the celebration of Pentecost, I find myself vacillating between two disciplines, openness and lament. I recognize these aren’t disciplines we talk about and yet worship, prayer, fasting and the other ordinances I attend to cause me to also recognize the intentionality of the Holy Spirit trying to shape me in lament to prepare me to be open to where God is leading me.
Lament is an ancient practice we can read in Scriptures. Lament is the passionate expression of grief or sorrow we read through the psalmist writings, we hear Jesus quote when he cries out on the cross “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” This week the death toll from COVID-19 reached 100,000 in the United States. 100,000 lives, names, stories lost in a short time with little space or ability to publicly lament and grieve for families and friends. Think of it this way, we read 44 names last November on All Saints Sunday; just consider the names that many churches will lift up this coming year. I grieve and lament to not just rush past the pain and fear, but take account and offer it all to the God I trust.
I grieve and lament that in spite of my desire to “get back open,” the world will not be the same. I can try to pretend, or again, ignore the reality, but there are now possibilities of new thinking. I lament, the way we used to do worship. I lament and grieve the loss of the way we used to experience theater. I lament as I read data that says the riskiest thing is to sing in groups or have congregational singing in small spaces. I lament I don’t have the answer when people say, “how long.” I lament I won’t see hundreds of children or youth crowded into one space singing and worshipping in the foreseeable future. Lament is not about living in fear. Lament makes me face what is real in my world and life and forces me to give it back to God in order for God to restore my hope in something new.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples had spent a few weeks together, on Jesus’ insistence waiting. Huddled together in their own grief and lament of what they had experienced for three years and learning to lay that down, as they waited and made room to be open for what Jesus had promised. An Advocate to lead them forward in this new mission to carry Christ’s gospel to the world. I am sure they processed and prayed, and grieved, and then turned to wonder at what God was going to do in them and through them next. How would this gift of the Advocated change them, and empower them to do this great mission Christ had given them.
As we move toward Pentecost, longing and waiting for the Holy Spirit to take our open hearts as disciples and as a church, and reveal new ways we are called to be the Kingdom of God in the world, I invite you first to take some time to lament. Open a journal and write your prayers, read with some Psalms. Name your grief and the gaps of who and what you have been or will be missing. Open up the space so the Holy Spirit might come with power and hope to fill it with new ways, new people, new understandings of how we work, serve and live as the church. Pentecost is the celebration of the birth of the church alive in the world – which the world needs birth now more than ever.
Grace, Peace, Lament, and Hope,