I gave this communion talk using a lament as a lens. Since I received a strong response, I thought I would give you the transcript I was working from and the video.
What is Lament?
After 2020, the heartache, pain, and struggle, I started researching and studying Lament this year. I haven’t finished yet, but I will lead a class about my findings this fall (hint: shameless self-promotion).
But lament, despite occupying many of the major stories throughout the old and new testament, isn’t something we talk about often. So, a quick definition for lament is the idea of putting things in the past so that we can pick up on new directions. And, I don’t know of any communion thoughts using lament as a lens, so that’s what we will do today.
The lament seems to have two parts. First, there are tangible things, a body as it were. In lament, these tangible things are changed irrevocably. We can demonstrate and measure these things. We can quantify them to others, and they too can know and understand them. For example, we can see and know that Coronavirus has taken the lives of over 600,000 Americans and millions more worldwide. We can remember the lost year, missing trips, graduations, weddings, parties, and funerals. All these things our descendants will look back on and shudder for.
Think of the body of Christ. We can know that Jesus didn’t die of fluid loss, though it was contributing factor. We know it wasn’t the nails through his hands, and it wasn’t the lack of sustenance even. No, he suffocated. He was exhausted and could no longer push or pull against the nails to get one more breath. Then, for good measure, his lungs were punctured.
And so, in the vein of lament, we have to let go of Jesus’s body. We have to let go of part of ourselves. Somethings died. They cannot occur again. They are simply past. And our daily motions and rhythms continue in the here and now, and no longer then and there.
And so we take this bread to remember then and there. But also to bring us to our very human present.
Let us pray for the bread.
There is a second side to lament. Something that we can only feel. We can’t point to it or quantify it. It is intangible. There is a sort of spiritual aspect to it. And as much as we might try to prove this side of lament or this side of our faith, at the end of the day, we can only testify about it. No one can empirically measure how much prom or senior trip might mean to you. No one can know how hard it was to wrangle children into their school seats while trying to work a job. Or what it meant to miss your family. No one can know the chest pain from exhaustion that kills you on a cross.
This makes lament something special because it proclaims the factual truths while leaving space for the feelings we can only tell others about. The fantastic thing is that while the concrete has changed forever. These emotions are as constant as the ocean. They rise and fall like tides until they become as familiar to us as the background noise so many of us sleep. We can only get to know our story. We cannot change it, and we must be honest.
And as you communicate your story, confronting your humanity, something new is made within you. Something is lifted off your soul so that it can become peaceful. In that peace, we move forward. You think again. You make new paths, new discoveries, and experiment with the new person you are. And as silently or perhaps as violently as the ocean, you are no longer who you were. That story has passed, and a new chapter, as fresh as the resurrected Christ, has come.
And we fill ourselves today with that resurrection. We may not see it, but we can feel its presence like the blood coursing through our veins. So we take this cup to remember the blood of Christ that now flows within us.
Let us pray for the cup.
What do we do with these two parts, the tangible and the intangible?
The short answer is we bring them to other people.
Utilizing the lens of lament is not something we do in isolation. Lament is meant to be done in a group, maybe only a couple of cherished friends or maybe in a congregation. We often begin with an examination of what happened. What are the tangible things that have changed and that we must let go of? Then we tell our intangible stories about how those tangible things have changed us.
When we do these two things, God affords us to think about what is next and what it means to be human all over again. In our humanity, we connect with others. We testify to what hope God is giving us by bringing people into our journey. We remember the highs, and we are honest about the lows. By connecting, we travel somewhere new. Somewhere we may never have wanted to go in the first place, but we have arrived, and now we must confront ourselves who have changed in a fresh relationship with God.
That new thing under heaven is a relationship not just outside us but within us. In the story of Jesus, he leaves, and we have to let him go. We have to let go of the tangible God. But God gives us something new, the Holy Spirit. Now we can testify of the many effects God has had in our lives. Our connection becomes something more, not just between each other but God as well.
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