Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A reading life - lament.

Over the past little while I had been thinking about the place of lament within Church life. Certainly the season of life I'm walking through has made this resurface for me.

I just finished reading Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah. The book examines the church's relationship with a suffering world. It does this through looking at the book of Lamentations. The book talks a bit about race-relations in the United States, which I found interesting and recognise while its perhaps not directly applicable to Australia, there are certainly lesson to take in how we approach our own history.

Soong-Chan also critiques the churches focus on success, (and American excecptionalism), and it does seem to me that we have the same issue here.

The book reinforced for me the importance lament has alongside praise in our Christian life. Given the above, it is not an easy read, but it is a necessary read.  It provides a great discussion of what lament is, and the place it can occupy in our faith.

I am now reading Finding Lost Words: The Church's Right to Lament, which has also been a really helpful read about this topic.  The chapter I have read highlighted why lament may not be practiced as much, suggesting lament may not be practiced as much because the understanding of God's sovereignty was eroded by ability to acquire and use knowledge, our ability to control and understand our world and our fear that expressing lament shows a lack of trust or faith in God. Rachel Ciano (the author of the first chapter) argues that biblical criticism played a role too as how the book of Psalms was understood and studied changed. The second section highlighted how some church leaders (including John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon) had understood the place of lament in the Christian life.  I'll write more about this book as I work my way through it.

We certainly do need to find space in our corporate gatherings for lament, recognising the world is not as it should be, recognising the hurt in each other's lives and recognising the church is not as it should be either. In honestly expressing all our thoughts we can then move to praise.

There's a great chapter in Sarah Bessey's book Out of Sorts: Making peace with an evolving faith which also deals with lament, and the point which struck me, was how she wrote we should leave space for silence, space for grief, and simply sit with the truth that sometimes life doesn't make sense, sometimes life is crap, and we just don't understand. In these moments, it is just being alongside people that matters.

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