“The very purpose [of the church] was to be a light in the darkness– to be a presence in all the absences of the world.“
Greg Thompson, from his talk at Q
When we started preaching through the book of Jeremiah this fall, I knew at some point we would have to talk about lament. This week, that’s where we are going.
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night…
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Last Sunday, over 58 people were murdered by a shooter in Las Vegas and over 515 were injured. The shooter had somewhere between 8 and 10 guns with him in his hotel room. He had set up cameras so he could watch the approach of the police and gauge how much time he had before he, Steven Paddock, murdered himself.
There will be people who call for our nation to take a look at our gun laws. And people will be mad that a call to change gun laws could change the freedom they enjoy with regard to firearms. “Guns don’t kill. People do.”
There will be people who call for our nation to take a look at the way we care for people with mental illness. And people will be mad because mental illness is not an excuse for destructive behavior.
The mass murder in Las Vegas exposed yet another absence that is crying out for presence.
When injustice and tragedy happen… When the absences of the world are exposed, humanity tends to respond in 3 ways: we protest, we serve, we lament. We need all 3 to be present in the absences of the world.
So this week, we will choose to lament.
I wanted to give you a heads up and to encourage a few things:
- Lament might involve emotion but it is mostly a deliberate choice to ‘enter in’ ( to feel, to be empathic, to understand, to identify with). We will invite you to feel the wrong of what is broken and busted in the world. We will not expect you to have an emotional response.
- For some of us, we are assisted in our ‘feeling’ by ‘writing’. If you are one who uses a journal, I invite you to bring it on Sunday. You will have an opportunity to reflect, to write, to feel.
- As always, a particular event is grown and nourished in a broader culture. We live in a culture that is entertained by violence and the desolation of the image of God. The conflation of entertainment and violence should push us to lament.
For some of you, you are already mad. For some of you, this topic feels overwhelming. For some of you, you want to come to church to feel hope and encouragement, not lament.
I do too. I don’t like the broken fallenness of our world. But I am grateful to God that He walks with me (and you) into the absences while holding my hand and being present.
The light of the world.