Note: I usually do a series during the summer, and I guess this summer’s series became “Difficult, challenging, pointed sermons preached from a manuscript.” I do not plan to continue it, but this sermons certainly matches last week’s sermon in difficulty.
Sermon on Lamentations 3 – I did this. We did this.
“I did this. We did this.” The poems of Lamentations land like a self-inflicted gut-punch, reading like a mournful and terrible confession of realization. “I did this. We did this.”
At what point do we admit that we broke the world? When do we finally say, “I did this. We did this.”? At what point do we stop pretending we are the rain drop that did not cause the flood or slow flake that did not participate in the avalanche and finally just say, “I did this. We did this.”?
We divided ourselves based upon our own rules. We declared all who disagree stupid, evil, non-Christian, and burned every bridge between us that we could.
We named dissent and difference of opinion evil. We called so much disagreement and dissent evil that evil no longer has meaning and we no longer have language to recognize the abhorrent as such.
We allowed evil to happen in the name of political party. We ignored the failings of those we agreed with, allowing their greed and power-seeking activity to continue because we agreed with them in spoken philosophy.
We withheld love.
When do we finally say, “I did this. We did this.”?
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The poet laments God’s wrath. The poet feels the pain of God’s wrath and cannot help but lament.
How does God express God’s wrath?
Does God actively punish the poet and his people? Does God actively bolster and strengthen the soldiers of the poet’s enemies and actively weaken and undermine the efforts of the soldiers of the poet’s people? Does God actively force the poet’s people into a foreign exile and actively allow the destruction of the temple?
Or does God allow the natural consequences of their sins to take root? Do the sins of the poet’s people weaken them naturally, spread them too thin and make them too confident? Do the natural consequences of their sins condemn them to failure without God’s intervention?
Or did the poet just feel abandoned when the sins of the poet’s people finally lead to their destruction and demise? Did sin finally cause so much damage the poet’s people imploded upon themselves.
The specifics do not matter to the poet. God’s wrath is pain and destructions. The poet laments God’s wrath.
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Why does the poet lament? Why does the poet “passionately express grief or sorrow”? What right does the poet have to lament? The poet himself says it. “Why should any living [person] complain when punished for [their] sins?” What right do we have to complain? We did this to ourselves.
Our sin condemned us. We became complacent. We forgot God. We abused our resources and ourselves. Our sin—not the sin of someone else but our sin—lead to our demise.
Why do we complain and mourn? Why do we complain when we did this to ourselves and why do we mourn what our sin caused us to lose? Why do we lament our world? We did this. We broke our world.
We did not speak out. We saw evil and we remained silent.
We continued to participate in the divide. We threw insults and slung mud and dehumanized the “other”—even our friends and family—because they disagreed.
We turned our backs on those in need. We used a policy of “worth” and “true need” to determine who we did not turn our backs on.
We congratulated ourselves for our sins. We patted ourselves on the back for deepening the divide and celebrated how much “good” we did while we withheld love from those most in need.
Why do we lament our broken world? We broke it and celebrated the initial wreckage.
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The poet laments not feeling God. He may have no right to lament, but he laments out of pain and without anything else to do. And the poet laments the sin that brought him and his people to this point.
In his lament, the poet sees the path to healing: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven.”
The poet calls his people to repent. The poet calls his people to confess their sin and own it, realizing that they did this. The poet calls his people to turn from their sin and return to the life and path God intended for them.
And the poet calls his people to lift their hearts to God.
The poet will continue to suffer even as he starts on this path. This path of healing does not immediately relieve pain but much like rehab after tragedy, the healing this path provides will hurt.
But healing will come.
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We lament as we look at our world and God appears so far away.
Suffering happens in our back yard. Sex trafficking—the sale and abuse of human beings—happens less than three miles from this sanctuary.
Suffering happens to the weakest and the least. I need not name specifics; we all know what happens to the least of God’s children.
Suffering happens in the name of greed and power. I am reminded daily of the suffering and torment our sisters and brothers in Sudan, South Sudan, and Ethiopia suffer to simply satiate the whims of power of those with guns and soldiers.
Suffering happens, and we stand in complacence or participation as the world breaks.
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We must repent, confessing our sin, owning our sin, and turning away from our sin. We must do what God desires and what will heal our world.
We must speak up instead of closing our eyes to the suffering and torment the sins of our world cause.
We must bridge our divisions that have allowed politicized evil to not only happen but stand as the norm instead of the deviation.
We must vocally abhor evil from all evil doers, especially those who look and think like us.
Our repentance will not immediately relieve the pain of our sin or heal our world. Our sin has shattered our world and the shattered world we have created will require extensive, painful healing. Nothing will heal quickly or painlessly.
But if we lament our shattered world and our sin and we repent, confessing and turning away from our sin, healing will come.
I lament our shattered world though my sin shattered it. I try to repent of the sin I lament. I seek the painful healing our world desperately needs.
Please—please—do the same. Amen.