What a set of readings we have this Sunday! I love being part of a liturgical tradition that has a lectionary, that’s the appointed readings for each day and each Sunday. I like having appointed readings because then I don’t have to think about what we’re going to read at the Chapel, I can prepare for Sunday morning in advance if I like, and I get to hear more scripture than the “Top 40” greatest hits of the pastor this year.
The reading that really captured my attention this week is the reading from Lamentations. It’s a short book, only five chapters and it’s all poetry. The first four chapters are written as acrostic poetry in Hebrew. The last chapter is a little freer. Usually in Christian traditions, we read Lamentations around Holy Week as we lead up to Easter, and traditionally Jews chant it to a special tune on the commemoration of the destruction of the Temples, which happened on the same day some 600 years apart.
The reading caught my attention this year because I think there is a lot of lamentation in our culture today. We feel like our walls are broken down; we feel exiled from our former glory, real and perceived; we are pursued by internal and external enemies, again both real and perceived. We live in a time where our temples stand on shaky ground waiting to fall. It is hard to overstate how similar our situation is to the brokenhearted days of the writer of Lamentations.
But the promise of God is the rebuilding of our lives, not in the old way, but in a new a better way. When the first Temple was destroyed, a new one free from the idolatry that plagued the first one, was built. When the second Temple was destroyed, two new religions, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity, were born out of the question, “What shall we do without our Temple?” And now, as Christians and Americans, we face troubling days when the edifices we hold most dear are crumbling and we too are challenged by the question, “What shall we do?”
In the midst of brokenness, God reaches out to us with the promise of new life, the promise of a rebuild if different Temple, and the promise of the resurrection of the dead. We have to do our part, reaching out toward God to receive the promises, participating in the building of something new. We have to lay aside our egos, shake off the dust, and arise, each one in the way God has called us. How will you reach out to God this week? How will you bring God’s promise to the world around you today?
The image is of the first word of the book of Lamentations and is pronounced “ay-kha” in Hebrew and means “How?”