The past few Sundays I preached each Sunday and what a joy it is. Some of the days were celebrations of local church accomplishments and I was privileged to share in those celebrations.
On the other Sundays the pastor invited me to come and share with the congregation. I love to preach and preaching is an exciting time. We celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ, the transformation of lives and the hope God gives to us in the midst of adversity.
Seldom do I arrive at any congregation without someone sharing a lament. They lament the absence of a pastor they love, the decline of the Church’s influence, or the decline of their congregation in a declining community. Laments troubled me for many years. It was hard for me to understand laments in the midst of such meaningful and festive celebrations. The thought often went through my mind, if not upon my lips, “Why can they not enjoy the wonderful blessings God poured out upon us for just one day?” “Why must they lament in the midst of such joy?” Slowly the reality crashed through my troubled mind. They lament because they possess such hope for the future. They are dissatisfied with the present and know things can and will be better. Instead of seeing such persons as doomsayers, I began to see them as beacons of hope.
Many of our leaders who help us understand the necessity of change reveal that we cannot move forward until we are unhappy with our present situation. As long as we remain comfortable with our present situation, we are very unlikely to endure the pain, suffering and discomfort that change brings. Few of us choose an unknown, difficult and dangerous future over a comfortable satisfying present. We choose comfort over discomfort, the known over the unknown, safety over danger. When individuals begin to lament, they are expressing a willingness to move from a safe, secure, understood present to a dangerous, unpredictable and chaotic future.
One must confess that a few people simply want to turn the clock back to a past that was never as lovely, predictable and safe as they remember. They want the world to become like they remember it being. However, even in this fantasy, they are expressing a hope and dream of the future that is different from both their present reality and an idealized past. They are open to God’s guidance and direction.
One of my great joys in the first years of ministry was participating in the relocation of a congregation. I was the associate pastor and fortunately did not bare the caustic statements a few of the members hurled at the church leaders. They knew the congregation was growing and needed additional facilities to continue to grow. They knew the present church facilities were too old to be transformed into the facilities required for the expanded growth. They knew there was insufficient parking, but their discomfort level failed to reach the height where they were willing to give up their love for those wonderful old buildings where so many memories were housed. That same congregation relocated a few years ago after another almost 40 years. They continue to grow, expand their ministry, experience lives transformed and encounter persons journeying toward perfection. The people continue to lament. They envision a Kingdom that can be, a Kingdom they have tasted and a Kingdom that will be one day. A lament is a call to a new and better future.
Grace & Peace,