Saturday 28 October 2017

Thandi Gamedze

Reflections on Lament

At this year’s annual celebration, Nkosi and Rene led us in a time of lament. A candle surrounded by barbed wire was used to symbolically represent the light and hope that Jesus represents, in the midst of the present pain and suffering.

In the active pursuit of justice, coming face to face with suffering time and time again, is unavoidable. The earthly existence of Jesus himself was marked by encounters with human pain and suffering, his very death on the cross almost a culmination of this reality. The gospels are filled with descriptions of Jesus being moved to compassion in the face of another’s suffering. He does not shy away from these difficult moments, but fully enters into the space occupied by the person in pain.

Our present reality is that people are in pain all around us. The kingdom whose foundations are justice and righteousness, has not yet come in its fullness. Suffering still marks the lives of so many of our siblings. And while we continue to look to the time when all is made new, it is key that we continue to situate ourselves within the suffering around us, mourning with those who mourn, allowing ourselves to be moved by the weight of their pain.

We see such lament throughout scripture:

“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.” Psalm 6: 6-7

“I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes- it also has gone from me” Psalm 38: 8-10

“O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage. The kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” Psalm 94: 3-7

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.” Lamentations 1: 1-2

And the following captures some of our collective lament:

Lord we weep with you for the many women and children that continue to be victims of sexual violence, for the children born into poverty who are never given the chance to reach their full potential, for the hopelessness that defines the outlook of so many.

Lord we weep with you for the countless children that grow up in fatherless homes, for the children in our cities that suffer abuse, rape and violence, for the reality that circumstances of birth determine opportunities in life.

Lord we weep with you for the growing gap between the rich and the poor, for the fear that prohibits us from loving our neighbour, for a country that is still so defined by racism, for the inequality that plagues our society.

Yet in the midst of the pain, there is also a hope that we can hold onto. The light that is ever shining, even in this present darkness. That of Jesus, who took on the fullness of human suffering, and proved victorious over it. Because of this, lament is not the end of the story. We also get to be carriers of joy, bringers of hope, and dreamers that dream forth the fullness of this coming kingdom that will be founded on justice and righteousness.

Psalm 126

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”


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