To the Church in Exile,
The peace of Christ be with you. Our lectionary reading is from Lamentations 1:17-20:
17Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her; the LORD has commanded against Jacob that his neighbors should become his foes; Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them.
18The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and behold my suffering; my young women and young men have gone into captivity.
19I called to my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and elders perished in the city while seeking food to revive their strength.
20See, O LORD, how distressed I am; my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.
I don’t spend much time in the book of Lamentations, but I am impressed with the honest speech in this book. I commented on this yesterday – Lamentation’s willingness to name the darkness. In today’s verses, I am struck by just how much this sounds like a prayer of confession: “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word.” Jerusalem has turned from God and is now suffering the consequences – “there is no one to comfort her.”
“Repentance,” writes Kathleen Norris in her book The Cloister Walk, “is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we’ve done that we might not have done, or recognizing, as Oscar Wilde says in his great religious meditation De Profundis, that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become.” Confession and repentance mean coming clean about who we are and the mistakes that have brought us to this station.
There are a couple of other things to notice in these few verses. There is a hint of Jerusalem trying to teach others: verse 18 “Listen all you peoples and see my suffering.” I hear in this, “learn from my mistake.” Also, there is this curious invitation to God to observe: 20See, O LORD, how distressed I am; my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.” Yet this invitation lacks any plea for God to jump in and offer an immediate fix. “Okay, God, I get it. I know why I’m in this fix; but could you just see me and be with me?”
Years ago, a pastor colleague had a falling out with a young staff person in the church they served together. I felt as if my friend had been unfairly treated by this subordinate who in my mind had intentionally undermined him. Four years later, my friend related to me how this former staff person had just called him on the phone. He began, “I’ve been meaning to call you for two years now,” and proceeded to apologize for his betrayal. I think I became cleaner just hearing about it.
I’m wondering if this global crisis is an invitation to you and me to come clean, come clean with God, family and others. I wonder if this Holy Week might be encouraging us to look at ourselves honestly and to take stock. Crises have a way of pushing us beyond our comfort zones and giving us a new view of things. In the parable of the two sons, Jesus says that, while feeding the pigs, the prodigal “came to himself.” I wonder what he saw as he woke up. We know he repented, turned back home. I wonder what you see. I wonder what you’re going to do about it.
Lord God make us clean. Awaken us to who we are in all the beloved messiness we live in. Hold us and set us free to come to you without holding back. Forgive us for our own rebellions and heal the relationships that stand before us. In the name of our Lord Jesus who died for us and reigns in power for us. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11