Call to Worship
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! [PSALM 107:1-9, 15]
God of love, it is your will that we should love you with heart, soul, mind, strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, but we are not sufficient for these things. We confess that our affections continually turn away from you: from purity to lust, from freedom to slavery, from compassion to indifference, from fullness to emptiness. Have mercy on us. Order our lives by your holy Word, and make your commandments the joy of our hearts. Conform us to the image of your loving Son, Jesus, that we may shine before the world to your glory. Amen.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster
crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake." [MARK 13:32-37]
The deepest longing of our soul is the all-satisfying hesed of God—not in the abstract, but first-hand knowledge and experience, a tasting of God’s hesed. Have you been delivered by the hand of God, tasted his mercy, seen his power, heard his word, felt his presence? The degree to which we have known the presence and power of God is the degree to which we get a sense for what it meant that Jesus was the Son of God, and how devastating it must have been to bear the judgment of God against sin. All lament leads us to Jesus, in whom our sorrow and pain finds ultimate identification and hope.
The apex of bewilderment and spiritual chaos for Jesus was on the cross. The physical pain was excruciating, yet it was nothing compared to the shock and horror of being forsaken by the Father. The wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, the whole weight of the world’s guilt bearing down on his shoulders. He felt the pain and loss of humanity. He internalized our anger and shame. He, who knew no sin, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In that moment, he took up the lament of King David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). When he said this he not only took our sin upon himself, but also voiced all our laments. For underlying all our laments are two questions: “God, where are you?” and, “God, if you love me, then why?” For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus felt the absence of the Father’s presence and the uncertainty of his love. God could not look upon the sin that Jesus became.
Why did it have to be this way? If Jesus was God’s answer to ages of laments, how did he end up in the most lamentable position of all?
One approach to the question is to consider why so many ultimately rejected him, even his own people (John 1:11). They had expectations about what it would mean for God to answer their prayers and solve their problems. The disciples, too, regularly stumbled over their expectations. They hoped the Messiah would conquer the Romans and vindicate Israel. Instead, he predicted the destruction of the temple and died for the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to give them answers. Jesus gave himself. He predicted his own destruction, and then endured it in order to conquer our real enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Jesus did not take away lamenting. He took it up. Having endured the cross, he secured for us the one thing we need more than solutions: the presence of God.
“Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence” (Card).
- Spend some time meditating on the suffering that Jesus endured.
- How would the presence of God be more satisfying to you than answers from God?
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! [PSALM 90:12-17]