Chip Stapleton Highland Presbyterian Church April 6th, 2020 Hunkered Down Devotions
Lamentations 1:1-2 (NRSV)
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
I don’t often think about the book of Lamentations. It isn’t one of those parts of the Bible that is full of familiar passages or well-known phrases. And yet, last Thursday night, as I was heading home from the church, the above lines, the ones that begin this strange book, came flashing into my mind and – to be honest – I was a bit overwhelmed.
It was fairly late, after 9:00pm as we were filming something for the Maundy Thursday service that required darkness, and as I took that short ride home, it just struck me how empty Haymount felt. As I became aware of the eerie emptiness – a result of the stay at home order and city curfew – those words above, ‘How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!’ became real to me in a way that I hadn’t experienced previously.
As Christians we are by definition, I think, optimists: We know that no matter how bad things get – no matter the circumstances – that we are never alone and that our God has the power to overcome even death. That knowledge should give us a positive outlook, I believe.
And yet, here we are on Monday of the strangest Holy Week we have ever known, and I am feeling a connection to the Biblical lament – and to the emptiness and anguish of Holy Week – that I have not previously felt.
The reflex for us as Christians (and as Americans) is to ‘look on the bright side’, but Holy Week is the time when we are reminded that sometimes the right thing to do is acknowledge that everything isn’t ok.
That is exactly why the book of Lamentations is included in our holy scriptures and it is why Holy Week is so important. Even though we know that in and through Jesus Christ – and the victory he won for all of us over death at Easter – everything will, eventually be okay, that space between where we are now and that final place of perfect communion with God is filled with moments like this one, where the only honest thing we can do is admit that things are good or okay and that we can’t see or imagine a reason for all of this.
Holy Week and Jeremiah’s Lamentations both remind us that we are not alone in these moments of despair. Jesus knows exactly how we feel – he has felt it too – and he sits with us in our pain and sorrow and lament.
The reason we can have hope in the face of difficulty, grief and pain is because Jesus is with us through it all, carrying us when we can’t make it ourselves and weeping with us when we are overwhelmed with lament.
It may be hard – it is for me – but this strange Holy Week, don’t run away from or bury those laments that you are feeling, instead invite Jesus to make himself known to you in the midst of them, and walk with him (and them) to the cross. For it is only in and through the cross that we get to the victory that is the empty tomb.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Lord, everything is not okay. You know that better than we do, and we ask that you would make your presence known among us in this time. Give us hope and peace, and help us reflect your love and grace so that others might know the hope that is found in you as well. Amen.