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03.30.18 Lamentation and the Suffering of Christ’s Body Mark 15:25-40

by on April 2, 2018

When we lose something, grief is our response. It is emotional, physical, and spiritual. It is also personal and private. When we express grief, it’s called mourning. Grief expert Alan Wolfelt says mourning is “grief gone public.”

Lamentation is mourning in solidarity with others. It may include our grief, but also our grief on behalf of others. Lamentation is our response not necessarily to things done TO us, or BY us. It is a shared public expression of grief.

Lamentation is also an expression of frustration. Things are not as they should be. The Kingdom of God has not come in its fulfilment.

Some people encounter lamentation in the Bible or the hymnal or the worship of the church and wonder if it is faithful? We’ve been taught that faith is a kind of resignation or acceptance. Faith is a trusting that leads to passivity. Those are aspects of faith. But so is lamentation. It is, from this perspective perhaps, faith in disguise.

Lamentation is also faith as hope. The grief and frustration of lamentation expresses our conviction that God can and should provide deliverance. If we didn’t believe this, we wouldn’t lament.

Lamentation is also faith as love. When we lament the suffering of others, in solidarity with them, it shows we care.

This kind of faith arises from our union with Christ. Our union with Christ makes faith, solidarity, and lamentation possible. First, Christ is united with us in his Incarnation. And he is united with us in his death. Both of these truths are symbolized by baptism. God is one WITH us and one OF us, even unto suffering and death.

Since this is true, we know we are not alone in suffering and death. We need not avoid suffering and death, even the suffering and death of others. Because of our union with Christ we can enter the suffering and death with compassion.

This is the attitude of the apostolic church, the earliest Christian communities who produced our New Testament. In Colossians 1:24 we read, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

Here we see that suffering is real but that there is also joy because Christ is with us. And more, in suffering with Christ for others, we are ourselves Christ.  So 1 Peter 4:13 can say, “Rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.”

Acknowledging suffering and death and even entering others’ is possible because of Christ. Hebrews 4:14-16 assures us, “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

This “bold approach” in order to “find grace to help” is exactly what lamentation does.

Our Good Friday meditation is lamentation. We will enter Christ’s suffering on the Cross, acknowledge our own suffering, and remember the suffering of others. Let us express our grief and our frustration. Let us express our love for others, our hope in God, and our faith in Christ.

[The congregation then interactively engaged Psalms 22 and 88. Psalms 13 and 130 are also suitable.]

 

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