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“Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus says. It was as strange when Jesus first said it as it is strange today. And yet the teaching echoes a truth proclaimed throughout the Bible, that mourning—be it grief, sorrow, or lament—is a common and crucial experience in the life of God’s people.
In this study, we reflect on the book of Lamentations, one of the most profound expressions of lament in all of the Bible, and seek answers to why Jesus calls us to follow him into faithful mourning.
We rarely lament. Christians often shy from public prayer or song that expresses grief, sorrow, or pain. But the Bible is full of examples otherwise, for faithful lament is vital to our discipleship. As we open the book of Lamentations, we learn the first response to pain and suffering ought not be to offer comfort, but instead to simply acknowledge suffering and share in sorrow.
The author of Lamentations likens God, the destroyer of Jerusalem, to an adversary. And yet, he also exhorts his fellow Jews to turn to this same God in prayer. How can God be both enemy and savior? In this session, we discuss Lamentations 2 alongside historic Anglican prayers as we seek to understand how to pray to the Lord of life and death.
In the middle of Lamentations, when it seems all hope is lost, the poet makes a startling claim: "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases ... great is your faithfulness." In this session, we explore how is it possible to find hope in the midst of grief, even for those who witness horrific tragedies.
There comes a moment in tragedy when the lament turns inward and we reckon with "the end of innocence" and "the darkness of man's heart," as William Golding puts it. In Lamentations 4, the poet's grief over the destruction of Jerusalem turns to reflect upon the horror of human sin.
"Hosanna" comes from a Hebrew phrase that means, quite simply, "Save us!" It's a plea for help, the cry of someone who is at the end of their rope and desperately reaching out to a power greater than themselves. At the close of Lamentations, we find here the central posture of biblical religion: the desperate plea from a people in need, looking to God for salvation.
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