Our readings from Lamentations and the Psalms reflect on the same historical events from two different perspectives. The Babylonian Empire conquered Judah, leaving the capital city of Jerusalem desolate and in ruins. Many of its citizens were taken into captivity.
Lamentations was written as if the narrator stood outside the city, looking at what was once a thriving hub. The psalm was written from the perspective of a person who was taken into exile, about to cross into the heartland of the captors. To both these storytellers, the feelings of shock and loss are surreal: Could this all be true? Is it possible that Jerusalem, especially the Temple—the dwelling place of God—could be left in such a state? Is it at all possible that God may have been defeated?
These questions set the scene for our journey this week. At the time of writing these meditations, the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa implemented a swift and thorough lockdown. The world changed overnight—no traffic on the highways, no airplanes in the sky, malls and parking lots empty, schools and universities suspended, church buildings empty on Sundays. No one would have thought this scene to be possible, much less how suddenly it all unfolded!
At times life springs unpleasant surprises on us, leaving us dazed, not knowing how to make sense of it all or how to move forward. We become speechless.
We can learn from the authors of these scriptures. The first step for them was to put down words, naming their emotions, vocalizing their fears and giving voice to their sense of chaos. Try to do this today with words, images, or music.
Almighty God, when I don’t have words, you assure me that you know my innermost thoughts. Help me to put my feelings into sounds and symbols so that I can start making sense of life’s surprises. Amen.
Lamentations opens with a description of the plight of the people of Judah, the southern kingdom. The people have been taken into exile as part of God’s judgment for their idolatry. The psalmist struggles to sing the songs of the Lord. In fact, those who overthrew Jerusalem have forced them to sing for their amusement, so the joy is gone. The psalmist prays that one day God will repay the invaders. In Second Timothy, Paul praises God for Timothy’s faith and for the legacy of faith that comes through his family. He charges him to preach boldly and without hesitation the gospel of Christ. In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges the disciples to show greater faith and to understand that we are all servants in God’s kingdom.
Read Lamentations 1:1-6. How do you allow your imperfections and failings to transform you?
Read Psalm 137. How do you remember your spiritual traditions and sacred places? How do you look for God’s work in change?
Read 2 Timothy 1:1-14. What spiritual practices help you to “guard the good treasure entrusted to you”?
Read Luke 17:5-10. How might a posture of cyclical servanthood to and with all creation transform or increase your faith?
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