Lament is an essential part of spiritual life.
In Luke 13:31-35, Jesus cries out, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings but you would not!’
Lament speaks of the willingness to feel with others. It’s akin to compassion.
The literal meaning of the word ‘com-passion’, is ‘to have passion with…’ It’s a deeper response than solving someone else’s problem, or even of feeling sympathy for them. Compassion allows their pain to become our pain.
Compassion and lament speak positively of the human potential to be impacted by others, and doing so for altruistic reasons. There is no immediate benefit in it; quite the contrary, there is a cost.
When impacted by sadness, it’s easier to get angry or feel overwhelmed. I hear many people say it’s difficult to watch the news; it’s overwhelming. I understand; I often feel the same.
However, getting angry and feeling overwhelmed lead to numbness.
‘Well, that’s life. It’s tough for some.’ Responses like this suggest the onset of emotional anaesthesia.
Lament pierces this carapace.
Why not ‘try on’ lament before moving to anger…. or, after the anger has exhausted itself, allow space for lament.
The noted Hebrew Scriptures scholar, Walter Brueggemann, writes, ‘suffering made audible and visible produces hope.’
What does he mean?
Usually, lament and grief are ways of adjusting to new situations, not of our choosing. After some time, we make the appropriate changes and return to a (new) sense of normal.
However, in Luke 13:31-35, Jesus laments for a different purpose. His aim was not to readjust to normal but to change what was normal.
Lament potentially unmasks the way the world operates, especially the ways in which God has been co-opted and assigned the role of administering a mild anaesthetic to anyone who calls out in pain..
At Revesby UC, we are travelling through Lent mindful of two distinct reference points, Jesus and Caiaphas, the High Priest.
It’s much easier to view Caiaphas through the eyes of caricature, harder to see him as a person doing his best in a difficult situation.
His intention, as I understand it, was to keep the Temple functioning, and thereby preserve a sense of hope and identity while the Jewish people laboured under Roman occupation.
Nonetheless, I wonder if Caiaphas had lost the capacity to lament.
Sometimes ‘doing one’s best’ is premised on profound spiritual numbness.
And in that case, God is usually regarded as maintaining the existing order, however dire.
Lamenting potentially pierces this claim and opens up another vista, a mother hen gathering her chicks.
Compassion, care, nurture and protection push aside a sense of fate.
Lament is powerful.