Lamentations 3:21-33 by Minister Wilma Garing
How many of you here today remember the last time you heard a sermon based on the book of Lamentation in the Bible? Well, guess what? You are going to hear one today! Our first Scripture reading this morning was from Lamentations 3:21-33. First, I would like to talk about the word “lament” which is the root word for “lamentations.” The dictionary gives two meanings for the word. When used as a noun, it is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. And as a verb, it means to mourn. During this past Advent season, we talked a great deal about “lament” as we reflected on the effects of the pandemic on our lives over this past year.
Beautiful hymns such as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” which we will sing following this sermon, have helped the church for hundreds of years to find hope and solace in the beautiful words from Lamentations 3. However, if we focus only on these verses of hope from this book of the Bible entitled “Lamentations,” we may miss their point—and, for that matter, the point of the entire book in which they are found.
The book of Lamentations in the Bible consists of 5 chapters of poetry written in response to a historical disaster, which was the destruction of Jerusalem, military occupation and the deportation of leading citizens by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 BCE. You can read the historical background of this event in 2 Kings 25:8-21. The book of Lamentations was written by and for people, God’s chosen people, who had survived an unimaginable trauma with personal, political, social, and theological dimensions. What if everything you relied upon for your security, comfort, identity, sense of God’s presence, and hope in the future simply vanished overnight? For the residents of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, who watched the Babylonians smash the walls of Jerusalem, burn down the temple, knock down the houses in the city, and execute the royal family, the world seemed to lose all sense of order and balance. Life suddenly felt chaotic, brutal, meaningless, and hopeless. These emotions and the questions that arose from the traumatic destruction of Jerusalem are reflected in the book of Lamentations.
Our Scripture reading today is considered the central poem of the writing. This is where “hope” is reflected amid all of the questions and laments. The hope that God will bring them out of this suffering. And as we know, God did do that. God’s wrath is limited but God’s divine mercy and compassion have no limits.
As we talked about during Advent, we all lamented during the pandemic. And of course, we all have things happen to us in our daily lives outside of the pandemic that we lament over. The loss of a job, news of a threatening medical condition, or the loss of a loved one. And like the people who witnessed Jerusalem being destroyed and lamenting but then hoping for God’s divine mercy and compassion, we have that hope promised to us. The hope promised through Jesus and the Holy Spirit assures us that we will experience and feel God’s divine mercy and compassion with us no matter what we are lamenting. In the midst of life’s certain pains, we must fix our minds on the everlasting and powerful love of our God. Only in that love will we find hope in our hopelessness, the promise of joy in our sorrows. Verses 25-26 from our Scripture text talk about waiting for the Lord, listen
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
We must remember that God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Verses 31-32 from our Scripture text tells us that God will not seem far away forever but always has compassion for us in whatever we are facing.
When the pandemic started, we had no idea how long it would last. But we kept the faith and waited on the Lord. And our lives are closer to normal now like they were before the pandemic.
Also, when the pandemic started and we had to change some of the procedures in our worship service, many of us wondered how it would be. How could we take communion using the pre-filled communion kits? How could we pass the peace without shaking hands or giving someone a hug? (I think not being able to hug someone was the most difficult thing for me during this pandemic). But you know what? Even in the midst of all of our worry and concern, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were with us in our worship and our worship was blessed. One thing that I learned in my Lutheran Confessions seminary class last week was that we need to not get so caught up in the ritual that we loose the meaning of the sacrament!
No matter what we are facing in life, good or not so good, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with us to show us love, compassion, and, give us hope.
I will close with a verse from Isaiah 41:10
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Now, before I say “amen,” as we sing the next hymn, let us think about the words of the hymn. “Great is thy faithfulness,” and “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.” Amen