We are continuing in
our reading of Lamentations that we began a few weeks ago, and
concluding this morning. Once again in the 3rd chapter, verses
25-36 and 52-58. I'm going to read from the New Revised Standard
Version, which is the same version that is in the pews, and we invite
you to follow along:
The Lord is
26It is good
27It is good
for one to
to the dust
may yet be
Lord not see
my plea, ‘Do
to my cry
near when I
taken up my
There were two
stories in the Register Guard in the last week or so that caught my
attention. Both involving murder and the response of family
The first was a case
of a murder that occurred some time ago that was only recently solved,
and a family member in response to the long ordeal said that the whole
affair had caused them to re-think everything in life including God.
The second was a
drive-by shooting last year of a single Mom, and after the sentencing of
the killer this week her mother told the Register Guard: "I don't
know how people go through something like this without the support of a
loving God and a loving church family".
Two different views,
almost at the opposite ends of the spectrum. It is in such times
of crisis we learn what we truly believe, what faith is all about.
And what is of most importance to us.
The author of
Lamentations describes such a time when Jerusalem lay in ruins, and many
doubted their faith in God, were re-thinking God. Some even giving
up on God altogether. And you can hear in these pages the author's
own struggles, trying to make sense of it all.
Verse 38, part of
that passage that I skipped over, the writer reveals that his underlying
belief is that God is the source of all that is. The good and the
bad. And that belief leads him to conclude that God is in control,
and therefore everything that has happened must be the will of God,
including the destruction of Jerusalem. It therefore must be
punishment upon the nation for their collective sin, turning away from
Now, we may
reasonably question that premise, at least in our own time.
Indeed, I think we should. Otherwise, it leads easily one to
conclude that September 11th, hurricane Katrina, even that game in Boise
State [Ducks lost], all of that was the will of God. And we know
that isn't so. And seriously, I do mean that, regardless of what
happens in football.
Speaking only for
myself, not for this text, not for the church or anyone else, I must
conclude from my own observation that God is either loving and just, or
God is all-powerful, but God cannot be both.
From my own
experience, like that of the second parent I cited above, I choose to
take my stand on the side of a loving and just God.
And so my reading of
history may be different than the author of Lamentations. But my
reading of God is really the same. For even though in the author's
experience it feels as if God has rejected the nation, as if God
is justly punishing her people. Regardless for how great God's
anger, how severe God's punishment, God's compassion is greater.
From my own
experience, I would say that is certainly true. This is the bottom
line, the 'take-away' from this text, that no matter how deep our sense
of abandonment, no matter the enormity of the sin, no matter the
completeness of God's rejection, God's love is greater. God's love
is always greater.
So the poet/prophet
affirms that God hears his cries, God takes up his case and redeems his
The word "redeem" in
Hebrew has a little different connotation than English. We think
of redeemed as something like a coupon -- you know, I go to Starbucks
every week and I get that little card that I redeem on iTunes for a free
song. Or we speak of something having 'redeeming value' if it
makes up for something else. The Ducks have redeemed themselves
after that terrible game at Boise State. Or we might speak of
someone who has redeemed their life after overcoming an addiction or
doing something worthwhile after a time in prison.
In ancient Hebrew
culture, redemption was more than that. Redemption was the
responsibility of a relative for members of their family. If my
son incurred a debt and lands in debtors prison, I redeem him by paying
that debt, and thereby setting him free. If my brother dies,
leaving a widow, I redeem her by taking her into my family so that she
does not spend a life in poverty.
To say, then, that
God 'redeems' someone is to imply that God has a special relationship
and a special responsibility as well. In other words, redemption
is based in relationship. Without that relationship, there is no
The author of
Lamentations is making not just this boastful claim about something God
has done for him (I mean, goody for him that his life is redeemed!), no,
the claim is about God's relationship with us as God's people.
To live the redeemed
life, therefore, is to live in that relationship. We live in
gratitude for that relationship we have with God. We live the
When we forgive
others as we have been forgiven, we live the redeemed life.
When we 'belove', as
Marcus Borg says, what God 'beloves', we live the redeemed life.
In that redemption,
as children of God, our life and every life takes supreme value.
If we know the worth of life, then we will show it in our work for life.
And if our faith in God has any value to us, then it will be evident by
what we give back to God. Or, I should say, what we give back to
God reveals the value of the faith we have in God, the value that we
place in that relationship we have with God.
In the video from
last Sunday, and the one I'm about to share with you, we heard the
voices of leaders from our community telling how much they value the
relationship of this church to our community. And I want to share
it this morning with you, or at least this portion of it, not just so we
can feel good about ourselves, but to show how valuable this church is
in this community. And how important our witness is to be a light
to the world here in the heart of Eugene.
It's not just the
value that we give the church, or the reflection of how much we put into
it (it's all of that and more), it's what we give and do that reflects
what it means to be a community of people redeemed by God, and a
community by God redeeming people.
So, let's hear from
[Dan then played a
video with community leaders from the Eugene area speaking about the
importance of First Christian Church]
You get a sense, I
think, of what it's about - what we're about, how we're seen in the
community, the importance of our support for this work. The
relationships that we build because of our faith in God.