Rev. Thomas V. Abbott "Individual Lament" Scripture Passages: 1) Hebrews 4:14-5:10
2) Psalm 22 Read Psalm 22 with Sung Response: The Psalms: We have been spending some time investigating the Psalms. We have learned that there are three primary kinds of Psalms: hymns, lament, and thanksgiving. Lament: Last week we began looking at Psalms of Lament. Lament is an expression of grief, sorrow, regret, loss, pain. We begin feeling these kinds of emotions when an expectation that we have for our lives or our world becomes violated. So this takes place for us when our lives take a detour from the video tape that we pre-recorded for our lives. We all know this experience. Last week we talked about community lament. There are times when as a whole community we lament the events taking place around us. For instance, we lament: economic struggles, unexplained tragedy, and injustice. We also lament experiences like struggling as a church even though we try to live as faithfully as we can. As a community we sometimes wonder, where is God? We wonder, “Has God fallen asleep?” We talked about the fact that while we won’t ever fully understand some of the experiences of our lives; God has given us the freedom to choose how we will live through these difficult times. We have the freedom to choose whether the living of our lives will bring Glory to the Kingdom of God, or turn people off to The Kingdom of God. How we live through periods of grief, sorrow, regret, loss, and pain while perhaps rocking our own faith also impacts how others experience God’s Kingdom. Our living matters. My Vacation Lament: Today we turn from community lament to personnel lament. Let me give you an example from my life this summer. I was greatly looking forward to our two weeks with Deb’s parents on the Oregon Coast. I love visiting Bill and Doris. It is easy to be with them. Their hospitality astounds us. We also have a good time their as a family. It is fun to be together. As we got closer to our time of departure, my video tape for that two week period had been well established. I was anticipating running every day. Bill and Doris live in a little town named Garibaldi, which lies on Tillamook Bay. Garibaldi is a working community. There is a large commercial and recreational fishing fleet docked there as well as a Coast Guard Station. There is also a timber mill. So it is fun running through town, along the docks, by the timber mill, along the coast watching people clamming or gathering their crab pots. I also run by this astounding Blue Heron nesting area. As I run I am bathed in the humid salt air that is so foreign to my lungs. I love all of that. I also was looking forward to playing tennis with Samuel every day. Samuel beats me most of the time these days, but every now and then I can steal a set or two from him. I love that too. I enjoy the freedom of no schedule, and no agenda just being together as a family. I love that too. I particularly look forward to walking the magnificent coast line along that area. Some of the beaches through there are simply spectacular. The rock outcroppings are stunning and the tidal pools full of cool sea life are amazing. I was also looking forward to some long beach walks with Deb at sunset. I love that too.
My video tape was pre-filmed and ready to experience it all. I couldn’t wait. The day before we left I was riding my bike. I was about 45 minutes into my ride when I saw this large black bug coming at me. I tried to duck, but it hit me right in the face and attached itself to my lip. I started trying to get it off, but it wouldn’t let go. It was big and fuzzy. I could feel its prickly legs digging into my lip. Finally I got it off. I have bad allergies, particular to bug bites and stings. I could tell my lip was swelling, but I didn’t seem to have any breathing problems. I made it home without any more attacks and still breathing. My lip stayed slightly swelled for a couple of hours then went away. I thought I had survived. Then about 10:00 o’clock that night my lip started to swell again. We went to bed early because we were getting up at 4:00 a.m. to drive to the Detroit airport. When the alarm went off I crawled out of bed, looked in the mirror and my lip was huge. This whole quarter of my face was swelled up. Deb and the kids said I looked just like the old man in the recent movie, “Up”. I haven’t seen the movie, but if you have then you have an idea of what I looked like. We had to get to the airport, so I started taking Benadryl, and Deb drove. I once had an emergency room doctor tell me, I could take twelve at a time if I had to. I started with two. When we got to Detroit we called Bill and Doris and told them that I was going to need to go to a hospital or emerge-care facility as soon as we got there. All through the flight my face kept swelling. At one point I started tasting blood because the tissues in my mouth were starting to tear. Bill and Doris had found an emerge-care facility on our way home. We stopped. They gave me a prescription for antibiotics, steroids, and told me to keep taking lots of Benadryl. I basically slept for the next three days waiting for my face to decrease in size and the drugs to wear off. Once I was in pretty good shape, I set out to paint a high soffit and eve of Bill and Doris’ house. For some reason, probably because of the height, it had never been painted. We rented a 40 foot extension ladder. It was a beast. We got it up on the house. As I was trying to level it out it started sliding. I quickly tried to dive out of the way. I escaped the ladder, but I twisted my knee in the process. I was able to get the painting done, but by the time I finished I was having a struggle walking. The next couple of days I couldn’t put any weight on it. Deb went and got me crutches, and a brace. We called the doctor but they couldn’t get me in before we were to leave. For the first several days I just laid around icing my knee. Then I was able to slowly hobble around. I wasn’t sure I would be able to stand up while I preached that first Sunday back, but I made it through. Needless to say, the vacation did not go as my pre-recorded video tape suggested. There was no tennis, or running, or long walks on the beach. There was a lot of rest, reading, laying around. My emotions through that time were real. I was frustrated, angry, depressed. I was lamenting. I was fighting not just being a jerk about my misfortune. I was fighting not making life miserable for everybody else, since I was feeling miserable. I was angry with God for not protecting my vacation. For me the first couple of days were particularly challenging, but then I began to live into the experience, find joy in what I was able to do. Besides, if nothing else, I knew I had a great illustration for my upcoming sermon on lament. Common Experiences: We all have these kinds of experiences. Life rarely goes as planned. My vacation experience was an extremely minor blip on the journey. It was no big deal, really, but it wasn’t what I had imagined vacation to be like. I lamented that loss. The Struggle: Psalm 22 records just such a time in David’s life. This particular Psalm comes with musical notes. David put his words of lament to a popular tune of his day that everyone would know. For all we know this Psalm may have hit the Jerusalem top forty. It may have
gone platinum. What we do know is that everyone knew this Psalm, and could relate to this Psalm because when life does not go as planned it is a struggle. Jesus was drawn to this very Psalm as he hung on the cross. He was only able to speak the first few words, but the whole Psalm was coursing through his mind. We don’t know what was going on in David’s life when he wrote these words, but we know his struggle. We know times where we feel forsaken by God. We know times when we feel as if we got the short stick. We know times when we wonder why this didn’t happen to someone else. We have times when life gets us so down that we feel like a worm. We know times when it seems that everything and everyone is lined up against us. We know times when we feel persecuted. We know times when we feel alone and abandoned. We know Psalm 22. Sometimes we feel this way because of little events like vacations not going as planned and sometimes by events that shake our world like the loss of a job, a betrayal of a friend, a marriage that falls a part, a child or a parent that makes destructive choices, a diagnosis that scars us, the death of a loved one. During these times it is easy to let our mind play tricks on us. It is easy to let our self image erode. It is easy to feel alone and abandoned. It is easy to feel like a victim. It is easy to feel persecuted. This Psalm points to the fact that even some one like King David had these struggles. The Psalm conveys how he fought through them. He was able to move from that place of “Whoa is me!” to a place of knowing that God’s love and faithfulness is real and personal. Conclusion: Even with little minor inconveniences like I experienced on my vacation it was a struggle to not be mired in self-pity, doubt, and anger. I so badly wanted to believe that God and the world were against me. I so badly wanted to make everyone around me miserable too. That kind of battle of awareness goes on inside us regularly. It is this inner battle that David turns over to God. It is this inner battle from which David seeks freedom. Jesus struggled in a similar way as he sung this Psalm from the cross. We all know this inner struggle all to well. We quickly forget our true identity as children of God. We quickly forget how God’s creation provides for us everyday. We quickly forget the gift of Scripture and its wisdom for our lives. We quickly forget the community of faith that God has placed around us. There is nothing wrong with lament. Life regularly goes in directions we don’t like and don’t expect. The question is will we be able to move from that place of lament to a place of resting in the arms of our loving God? Like David we all feel like worms from time to time, but do we let ourselves get stuck there? Like David can we let go of our lament and trust in God’s faithful love? Lament is real, but so is God’s saving grace. Let us not get stuck in lament, but let us rest in God’s loving care. Amen.
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