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Posted July 11, 2016:

Lamentation

This from Pastor Janet Parker of Salem, Oregon spoke to me,

Lamentation

“I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God that God may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out
without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.

You keep my eyelids from closing;
I am so troubled I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night;
I meditate and search my spirit:
‘Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has God’s steadfast love ceased forever?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has God in anger shut up God’s compassion?’”
Psalm 77:1-9

When the unspeakable happens; when violence compounds violence, and blood flows in the streets; when our peace is shattered, parents wail over slain children, and children cry for their parents; when words cannot comfort and meaning cannot be made; the time for lamentation has come.

“The old have left the city gate,
the young their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our hearts are sick,
because of these things our eyes have
grown dim.”
Lamentations 5:14-17

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile:
killed in the line of being black
Five as yet unidentified police officers:
killed in the line of duty
And darkness fell over the face of the whole land

In such a time as this, the Scriptures offer words when our own go missing. Our ancestors in the faith knew such times as these and much worse. They did not paper over their suffering with platitudes, but rent their clothes and wailed bitterly; complained; beat down heaven’s door; demanded that God act. They also owned their part, and did not shrink from naming their complicity in the evils that beset them.

On this terrible night, the best I have to offer is the words of our forbears, written down in the book that we call Holy, because through it, the Spirit of God still reaches into our hearts, and speaks words we need to hear; or expresses the words we need to speak.

“Hear my voice, O God, in my
complaint;
preserve my life from the dread
enemy.
Hide me from the secret plots of the
wicked,
from the scheming of evildoers…
shooting from ambush at the blameless;
they shoot suddenly and without fear.”
Psalm 64: 1-2, 4

As I write, the crime scene--the horror, is still unfolding in Dallas and we do not yet know how it will end. My heart is breaking. Let us honor the dead, pray for the wounded, and protect the vulnerable. Let us pray for Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas. And, please God, let us remember that tonight (and every night) we are more than black or white, police or protestor. We are American. We are children of God. And we are one another's keeper.

Pastor Janet Parker
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Salem. 

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