Holy Lament: A Worship Series for Lent shared by the South Central Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA

Week Five: Communal Lament

Prayer: Holy and merciful God, in times of community or national distress, turn our hearts and minds toward you. Let our communal laments be signs to those around us that we worship you, a God who hears and holds our cries. Let our efforts to hold one another up be a model of how to grieve for those who are searching for a way to give voice to the pain within. We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Reading: Psalm 44: 1-10, 13, 17-26 (ELW Version) We have heard with our ears, O God, our forebears have told us, what you did in their days, in the days of old. With your hand you drove the nations out and planted your people; you afflicted peoples and dispersed them. For they did not take the land by their sword, nor did their arm win the victory for them; but your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, because you favored them. You are my king and my God; you command victories for Jacob. Through you we pushed back our adversaries; through your name we trampled on those who rose up against us. For I do not rely on my bow, and my sword does not give me the victory. Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries and put those who hate us to shame. Every day we gloried in God, and we will praise your name forever. Nevertheless, you have rejected and humbled us and do not go forth with our armies. You have made us fall back before our adversary, and our enemies have plundered us. You have made us the scorn of our neighbors, a mockery and derision to those around us. All this has come upon us; yet we have not forgotten you, nor have we betrayed your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps strayed from your path; though you thrust us down into a place of misery, and covered us over with deep darkness. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to some strange god, will not God find it out? For God knows the secrets of the heart. Indeed for your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Awake, O Lord! Why are you sleeping! Arise! Do not reject us forever. Why have you hidden your face and forgotten our affliction and oppression? We sink down into the dust; our body cleaves to the ground. Rise up, and help us, and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

Reflection: Last week we considered individual lament. This week we turn to communal lament. Sometimes disaster strikes not just one person or household, but an entire community, even an entire nation. At such times we can find strength in coming together to mourn, to lift up our collective voices in a loud cry to God. Consider the national mourning that took place in the United States in the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Or, recall the solidarity displayed by many around the world when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Just as we need the support of the community when we face individual calamity, so we also need one another in the face of a shared disaster. We need one another for strength, courage, and to help us make sense of what is often senseless: destruction due to natural disaster or destruction due to human violence.

God’s people have never been strangers to communal lament – the psalms, prophets, and others remind us that being claimed by God doesn’t mean we are immune to hardship and suffering. It does mean that we always have somewhere to turn when such hardships occur. We have the Lord to whom we pray and offer up our lament. We have the community of faith to hold us up when we fear we can’t go on. Part of the gift of faith is that it is practiced in community. Jesus promised to be present “wherever two or three are gathered” in his name. May our communities be places where people can come with any size lament, and where all can weep for both personal and communal suffering. May our communities be places of support and above all, of hope: hope that all of our laments are heard and transformed by God in Christ Jesus, who so loved and loves this world.

Questions for Reflection: What expressions of communal lament do you find most meaningful? How have you felt the strength of your community in times of disaster or distress?