Monday, October 7, 2019


It is good that one should wait quietly 
          for the salvation of the Lord.

Three weeks ago, Mother Kim spoke beautifully
about things lost and things found.
Lamentations continues her theme, 
speaking of grief  and hope
-- grief for what we have lost and hope 
    for what we may yet find.
 Our lesson is about a clergy transition, 
           a prayer book revision,
          and a collapsed Church building – all at once. 
Lamentations is their kaddish, their dirge. 

The 2nd Noble Truth of Buddhism is change.
Change happens.
Churches are not exempt. 

Whenever change happens, something is lost.
There is a grief in that. 
As Joni Mitchel said,
          Something’s lost and something’s gained
          in living every day. 
Change in our Church strikes the memory chord 
of all the personal griefs still lingering in our hearts.

In the 1st Church I served, several children had died 
during the tenure of their previous rector.
When he left, the parents who had lost children
          felt themselves right back where they had been
          at the deaths of their sons and daughters. 
When a priest is called away,
          the grief is magnified by memories 
    of our personal losses. 

But isn’t that the point of being the Church?
We experience the things of life together, 
work through them together
                  so together we can grow stronger, 
      better able to work through challenges
          in the rest of our lives.
The Church is a spiritual gymnasium where we develop 
the strengths we need to live well,
a studio where we practice the art of life. 

Lamentations is 90% mourning.
But morning is a homonym.
It can mean the dark night of the soul,
          or the new day dawning.
So, in the midst of an ancient book of heartache,
          we find this gem about hope.

The thought of my affliction is wormwood and gall . . . 
But I call this to mind and (I) - have - hope. 
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases . . . .
The Lord is good to those who wait for him . . . .
It is good that one should wait quietly 
          for the salvation of the Lord.

As grief is part of life, the Church is a fitting place to grieve,
          but also to practice hope 
           -- for hope too is an essential part of life.
Philosopher Charles Mathewes asks how Christians 
can live meaningful, joyful lives
          when the world seems to be such a hopeless mess. 
He observes the core problem in today’s society 
         is a shortage of hope.
The suicide rate is markedly escalating.
The leading cause of death for Colorado youth
          is suicide -- a visible expression 
          of an insidious, widespread cultural despair.

What the world desperately needs, 
         Professor Mathewes says,
 is people with the capacity for hope.
Hope launched ships to explore the earth
          and spaceships to take us beyond it.
Hope gets us out of bed in the morning. 
It is the wind in our sails, the spring in our step,
          the capacity to dream of a better way. 

Carl Sandburg wrote,
          Hope is a tattered flag . . . 
          the shimmer of the northern lights
          across a bitter winter night . . .
          the Spring grass showing itself where least expected 
          . . .  and children singing chorals of the Christ Child.

Today’s world urgently needs
people with the capacity for hope.
Human life is possible only because of hope
          but our societal hope tank is running on empty.

Enter the Christians. Hope is our stock and trade.
        Blessed be the God and Father 
        of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1st Peter says,
         for by his great mercy we have been born anew
         to a living hope through the resurrection        
         of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Jesus is all about hope.

We can and we must take action on moral issues --
          housing, nutrition, violence, climate change.
But the first thing -- the core thing -- we can do for the world
          is to cultivate our soul’s capacity for hope. 

The author of Lamentations, in the midst of grief, 
          counsels us to wait quietly for consolation.
But his Hebrew doesn’t translate easily into English. 
Our translation reads, 
It is good that one should wait quietly 
for the salvation of the Lord.
That sounds passive like John Mayer’s 2007 hit 
Waiting for the World to Change.
The lyrics say,
It’s not that we don’t care.
We just know the fight ain’t fair
So we keep waiting for the world to change.
Mayer shrugs his shoulders saying, 
        What do you expect me to do about it?
Our text sounds like that.

But the Hebrew isn’t so passive.
The old King James version got closer saying
    It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait.
Not wait passively but persist confidently. 

Hope actually intensifies our discomfort with the status quo
Theologian Jurgen Moltmann says,
          Hope . . . is itself the unquiet heart in (humanity).

Lamentations doesn’t say just get over what you have lost
          either as a congregation or in your personal lives.
Remember our Psalm,
          If I forget you O Jerusalem,
         let my right hand forget its skill.
Our memories and our grief are part of us.
But how do we live them out?
The Bible teach to let your grief be the broken soil,
 in which new hope is planted.

When this congregation was broken and bleeding some years back,
          who could have imagined you would become
          the people of God you are today?
Around that time, the only future I could see for myself
             was shame, ruin, and a life that looked 
             considerably worse than death.
I could not have imagined standing here with you today.

But here we are, you and I. 
I know and have believed that something good is out there.
God is there. 
Our part is to wait confidently for God. 

The Bible tells us repeatedly how to move 
          through today’s losses into tomorrow.
Read Psalms, Isaiah, Micah, Romans, Titus, Timothy.
They all say the same as Lamentations. 
Hope and wait quietly, patiently, confidently.

Scripture teaches us that hope is a 2-edged sword.
It keeps us discontent with the status quo,
          but it gives us the confidence not to be rash.
Instead, we walk on deliberately
          with dignity and strength.
We step into the future like a ballet dancer,
like a Tai Chi master.

We hoist the sail of our dreams,
not driven by an agitated propeller,
but borne along by the steady breeze of the Holy Spirit.

Mother Kim’s words about finding new things recall Ulysses,
          Tennyson’s classic poem of hope and finding.
It’s about the sailors of Homer’s Odyssey 
             in their twilight years.
Ulysses summons his aging comrades 
             to set out on a new voyage.
Come my friends (he says)
          Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
          Push off . . . For my purpose holds
          to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
  of all the western stars until I die . . . 
  to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.