ACQUIRING LAMENT THIS APRIL 24th
This evening I will be speaking at the Saints Joachim and Anne Armenian Church at the 99th Armenian Martyrs Day Commemoration. We gather tonight to remember the horrors of genocide perpetrated against our Armenian people at the hands of Ottoman Turks – worsened by the frustration of years of unrecognized injustice.
What I will offer up tonight by way of meditation and reflection is what I call The Therapy of the Psalms.
In a lot of ways, the Psalms act like a mirror. At different points and in different ways they reflect back to us the experiences of a people caught up in life with God and His community. We read them and identify along with the Psalmist. We find ourselves in them and we acquire their genius when we need to put words to our encounters with life. They are creative and they are often genius!
There is one tradition within the collection of the Psalms that so appropriately fits our frustration and anger during Armenian Martyrs day – a tradition scholars have called The Psalms of Lament. These Psalms are deep cries of anguish – frustration at unresolved and unrecognized injustice. They beg God to rise up and judge justly. They make impassioned pleas to their King to set right the wrong and to rule the nations with righteousness and equity. Tonight I hope to apply these Lament Psalms to our community as a balm of healing.
Psalm 10 is one of my favorite examples of these Lament Psalms and its the Psalm I’ll use this evening. However, there are a whole host of other Psalms of Lamentation to be found. A quick online search will reveal them. Not to mention starting in Jeremiah’s little book of Lamentations.
There are at least three things I find so fascinating about the shape these Lament Psalms take:
For one, each of them offers the Legitimacy of Lament. In other words, the very fact that the editor of the Psalms includes these frustrated, questioning pieces in the larger Psalter frees us to pray along with them and ask God the same sort of hard-hitting questions. They liberate us to cry out to God. They make it ‘ok’ for us to scream at the state of the world – to say to God: “why do you hide yourself in times of trouble!?” Something we may have been taught to believe is inappropriate – and yet, here it is in our very own Scriptures.
Then, each of them offers us the Surrender of Lament. The power of these Lament Psalms is that they give us an opportunity to transfer over to God the anger, frustration and disorientation we experience in the midst of unchecked injustice. They invite us to begin healing as we commit to God the problem before us. As we confess our inability to cope with and solve all the craziness of the world, we hand all of it over to the hands of the just and righteous King. In a way we say, “You handle it God, because its eating me up inside!” There’s rich irony in all of this if you have eyes to see it. The One you are complaining to is indeed the One to whom you are entrusting your prayers!
At any rate, the final point that’s often overlooked in these Lament Psalms is that they hold in them the Commission of Lament. Behind each of these Psalms there is the implied call to action. The reality that you can’t simply complain about something if you’re not willing to do anything about it! You can’t lament if you haven’t begun to hunger and thirst for righteousness. In a way, the more we work towards setting the world to rights – the more we are allowed to lament. Interesting.
So, the whole point of lament is not simply to complain and surrender – the point is you can get back to work now! You have been freed by the surrender to get back to the job. You can get back to correcting and addressing the upside-down world we inhabit.
As we face the horrors of genocide again this April 24th and as we collectively grieve the lack of recognition – I hope we as the Christian community can learn to acquire the rich tradition of lament. And in so doing, I hope we can begin to find new creative ways to address unaddressed injustices and right the wrong of unrighteousness. May we be so brave!