New Mercies Part 2: Who Can Heal Us?

New Mercies

A Lenten Study of Lamentations

Session II – March 23, 2011

Who Can Heal Us?

“What can I say for you?  With what can I compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you, O Virgin Daughter of Zion?  Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?”

Lamentations 2:13

The conversation by the two characters from Chapter one continues in the second Chapter of Lamentations:

§  Verses 1-15a

  • Narrator – objective reporter describing the scene until verse 11 when he loses his objectivity.  “My eyes fail from weeping; I am in torment within…”
  • At verse 13 this changes again as the Narrator turns and speaks directly to Daughter of Zion.

§  Verse 15b

  • The Crowd is quoted – “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty…”

§  Verse 16a

  • The Narrator – continues to speak to Daughter of  Zion

§  Verse 16b

  • The Narrator quotes the gloating Enemy – “…This is the day we have waited for…”

§  Verse 17-19

  • The Narrator – speaks to Daughter of Zion imploring her to throw herself on the mercy of God if not for her own sake then for her children’s sake
  • “…pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children…”

§  Verse 20-22

  • The Woman, the Daughter of Zion  – morns that everyone and everything she loved is gone – “…no one escaped or survived; those I cared for and reared, my enemy has destroyed.”

Again, as in the first chapter, God does not speak here.  This chapter speaks of unrelenting pain, suffering, and abandonment:  “swallowed up all buildings,” “flaming fire that consumes everything,” “laid waste his dwelling,” “rejected his altar and abandoned his sanctuary,” Even others who walk by make fun of Daughter of Zion’s suffering.

Some questions to consider:

  • What does this chapter say to me/us?
  • Was there a time when you felt that you’ve lost everything you ever cared about?
  • Do you ever feel that you have “a wound as deep as the sea?”
  • Have you ever, like the Daughter of Zion, looked to God and said “Why me?”  (“Whom have you ever treated like this?)
  • Was there a time when you experienced others making fun of your suffering?  Or making light of another’s suffering or grief?
  • What do you see as the essential question in this chapter?

In our group discussion of the chapter, several things came up for us.  One person noted that in knowing now that the Book of Lamentations is recited at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem he was in awe that a person could/would say this to God.  The language seemed so harsh and not something he ever thought or learned about in his faith tradition.  Another reflected upon 2:15 “…Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?”  This reminded him of those mocking Jesus such as in Matthew 27:40 “…’come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’”

We were in agreement that the essential question of Chapter Two is found in 2:13, “…Your wound is deep as the sea.  Who can heal you?”  This is THE question that needs to be answered.  Who can heal you? Who can heal me?  Who can heal us?  This question is STILL being asked, everyday and everywhere. In the midst of the ruble in Japan, “Who can heal us?”  In the midst of a refuge camp in Darfur, “Who can heal us?” In the midst of broken relationships, “Who can heal us?”  In the midst of addiction, “Who can heal us?”  In the midst of a health crisis, “Who can heal us?”  We ask, in the middle of all the brokenness in our lives and in the world, whether it is our fault or something over which we have no control, “Who can heal us?” Who can heal me?” “Who can heal you?”  It is the question of the ages.

It is the question we wrestle with as we walk through Lent to the resurrection.  Jesus is the answer to Lamentations.  The Gospels are filled with accounts of the healing power of Jesus, even healing, as Lamentations would describe it, “wounds as deep as the sea.”  However, this raised several other questions for us.

Is there a relationship between the healing we long for and our willingness to step into the presence of God?  Sometimes, in our deepest pain, all we can do is simply give it all up to God.  There is nothing WE can do.  It is all in God’s hands.  There are times when we can’t even ASK, because our “wound is as deep as the sea,” but God knows our hearts.  We have all been there. Several in the group related these times, complete with gestures of raised arms to God. We reminded each other that there is no one on this earth who is too broken, too fragmented, too sinful or too empty to be healed. No one is without value to God.

Is there a relationship between the healing we need, in whatever form that takes, and the community that we belong to?   Is there a connection between the longing for healing and the longing for community?  Often those in need of healing are brought by others to Jesus as in Mark 1:32-34.  Throughout the Gospels crowds surround Jesus and most of the time the healing happens in the presence of others.  The paralytic man in Mark (2:1-5) had to be lowered through the synagogue ceiling by four men in order to be in the presence of Jesus for healing.  While we usually focus on the healed person, I would urge us to also remember the friends or family who went to great lengths to bring them to Jesus.

In the Old Testament in Exodus, as long as Moses held up his arms, Joshua’s fight with the Amalekites went favorably.  When Moses tired and lower his hands the battle turned in favor of the enemy. Aaron and Hur brought a stone for Moses to sit on and then they held up his arms until the battle was won.  He couldn’t do it alone so others came to his rescue.

Several of us had similar experiences.  When I lost a dear friend to AIDS many years ago I felt bereft.  He had been a co-worker and somewhat estranged from his family so he lived with my husband and I until his death.  We missed him terribly and I often felt as if I was sleep-walking.  Even going to church was difficult because there, like at work, I was often faced with “aren’t you over this yet?”  My friends Dody and Becky gently and lovingly urged me to go to church, even when it felt like I was going through the motions of worship.  They were my Aaron and Hur.  They held my arms up until I had the strength to so on my own.  Recently, Becky lost her father, and although she is living in another city now, I am trying to hold up her arms as she navigates through seminary despite her grief.

Another in the group shared the story of having a miscarriage and then a few days later, when she did not attend Sunday worship, was visited by the priest who insisted that, “You should be in church!”  She was in church the following Sunday, but was a bit overwhelmed. It was not so quit a gentle urging. We might need to tread carefully to ensure that we do not push a grieving person before they are ready, remembering that we need to allow them the space to be with the questions.

And a final question arose in light of Lamentations.  Is there a relationship between the healing we long for and our honesty before God?  Does repentance have a role here? Martin Luther, in his first thesis reminded the church that when Jesus said repent “…he willed that the whole of Christian Life should be marked by repentance.”  We struggled a bit with this, noting that sometimes things happen to us because of our sin, but other times the cause of our suffering is beyond our control.  There is a certain segment of the church sends often sends messages that bad things happen because we are bad people worthy only of divine punishment by God.  Such messages can be as wounding as the original traumatic event itself. Sometimes houses burn down, family members die, natural disasters occur, and relationships end, most of which is beyond our control.   Pastor Kate reminded those gathered who had experienced the death of a family member or sexual violence that neither had anything to do with “fault.”  These events were not the result of our personal sins.  As a community we have an opportunity to surround the grieving with a loving buffer against those that would continue to wound the already devastated.  Recently, we have witnessed that locally when the community surrounded the Clouse family to protect them from the vitriol of the Westboro Baptist Church that threatened to picket the funeral of their seven children.

Can Lamentations and the question “Who can heal us?” shape our church community into the kind of church we want to become?  When there are others around us who feel unable to make the trip alone will we be there to bring them to the feet of Jesus to be healed?  Will we be their Aaron and Hur, holding up their arms for victory?  We need each other.  We cannot do it alone.  We are in this together.  Poet Maya Angelou puts it this way:

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Galatians 6:2 puts it another way, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Thinking of this I turned to the person next to me and said, “I may not have lost a spouse or a child, but we are in this together.  I am here with you.”  She did not experience a sexual assault, but she was there with me.  There is a relationship between our longing to be healed and our living in community.  Thanks be to God!

Next week – There is Hope.

 

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Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. ” Is there a relationship between the healing we long for and our willingness to step into the presence of God? Sometimes, in our deepest pain, all we can do is simply give it all up to God. There is nothing WE can do. It is all in God’s hands. There are times when we can’t even ASK, because our “wound is as deep as the sea,” but God knows our hearts. We have all been there. “…

    –Sometimes it is difficult to let go and allow God to heal us. We are so used to striving, working, performing, proving ourselves, etc., that we can’t even let go and allow ourselves to be healed. In our society, it is difficult to be still and listen, to be patient through affliction, and surrender control. I have found these things some of the most difficult things to do in my own short life thus far.

    Now, after experiencing a great depth of personal pain and inner turmoil, I am allowing God to heal me, and realizing how beautiful the process is. Some of the pain I endured was definitely spiritual warfare and not “my own sin”… but I definitely could have repented, laid my life down, and let go more often, to make things a little easier.

    I am thankful for my burdens, pain, and experiences, because I have a richer perspective on life, I can share in those people’s pain that I experienced, and I can further relate to others that experience the kind of pain I endured, and lead them to the Almighty Healer.

    How Deep is His Love.


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