All Saints’ Sunday—Year B—November 4, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
There are many laments in the Bible. “A third of the Psalms are laments.” And there is a whole book called Lamentations. Biblical laments communally have three main characters: the lamenter, the narrator, and God. Biblical laments tend to unfold in a predictable pattern: an address to God, a description of the suffering, a plea to God for relief/help/deliverance, and finally a song of thanksgiving. The narrator is present in order to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the lamenter. The narrator stays present with the lamenter when they otherwise feel utterly alone. It seems as if God has abandoned them as well. God remains silent throughout most laments.
Have there been many laments in your life? Have you been the lamenter? Have you fulfilled the role of the narrator for someone in your life? Have you experienced the lack of God’s answer?
Have you wondered why God does not speak up, louder, or in a different way so that we can hear? Why does God not stand up for God’s-self? Why does God not help us to understand the purpose, or the cause, or the positive outcome that might result from the suffering in our lives?
Why does God remain silent in the laments in the Bible and the laments of our lives? One theologian explains it this way: “had the poets of Lamentations given a speech to God, God’s words would silence debate. The struggles with pain would come to closure prematurely. Any words from God would trump all speech. Instead, God’s silence honors voices of suffering. It gives reverence to anger and resistance, to tears and despair.”
Instead of being that friend that tries to bring comfort by saying the “right thing” and we all know that there is no right thing to say in a time of crisis, illness, death, or disaster. Initially, God simply sits with us, in the midst of our pain, and cries with us. “The home of God is among mortals.” God does not jump to explaining away what happened, why, how, or defending God’s innocence. God simply wraps God’s loving arms around you and mourns with you.
God does not need to jump write to talking, because God has been sharing the good news for many centuries. It is recorded and transmitted in many and various ways, and when we are at a point where we can hear it, the Holy Spirit will work through someone around us so that we hear it.
Right after we get a bad diagnosis or a loved one dies, we are not usually emotionally or psychologically in a place to hear and digest the promises of God. So God does not hold them back for those crisis times. God proclaims throughout our lives the good news so that when we really need it, it will already be inside us, and we will just need a gentle reminder, instead of having to be convinced from scratch.
That good news, that we can easily lose sight of in the midst of despair, when we look up to God, and like Mary, say “if only you had been here”…that good news is that death is part of all of our stories, but death is not the end of the story!
Almighty God, “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” is “making all things new.” For now there is pain, sorrow, and sadness permeating our lives, but that time is on the way out. A new heaven and a new earth are coming down to us from God. Soon there will be no more tears. God will destroy the shroud of death; it will have power over us no more. God will spread a feast before us, one where we share in all the good things from God with all the saints of God, past, present, and future.
But we actually get a foretaste of this feast to come each time we gather together for communion. Around the table God knits us, the people of God, together into one. For we do not just gather together with those present today at LCF, we gather together and share a meal with all the Christians around the world, and all the saints of every time and every place, including those we name aloud today, to share in the grace of God. It is at the table that we get a brief glimpse of what the new heaven and new earth, the kingdom of God, looks like. We gather together as one body with a feast of immense love and grace spread before us, through which God swallows up death forever.
So although we continue to see tragedy, storm devastation, loss of life and quality of life before us each and every day, know that God hears your pain, might remain seemingly silent in order to acknowledge your pain, cries/mourns/grieves with you, sends those around you to also acknowledge your pain and embody the comfort that God provides, and then ultimately says once again the promise that has been true for all of time: God loves you and therefore death is not the end of the story. Amen.