I confess to not having spent a whole lot of time in Lamentations. These powerful prayers reflect an experience of utter devastation which have not been part of my life experience — at least not first-hand. And yet, of late, I have yearned for the hoped for promise uttered in the section which is ours to share this 6th Sunday after Pentecost. I am seeking to stand firm in this truth: that in spite of a whole lot of evidence to the contrary, ‘there may yet be hope.’ And yet, from what the poet offers in Lamentations he or she does not actually see much reason for hope either — or at least it is so that such evidence is not offered in what is written before us now.
For me, at least, it has been one of those weeks. We all experience them from time to time, of course. Four funerals in five days. A touch of bronchitis with a cough that is not letting go. An unexpected crisis for which there are not yet words which can be spoken, which took up far more time, energy, heart, and soul than I felt I had to give. And a national/global situation where the nation I call home continues to act in ways contrary to my most essential values. It has been hard to say and harder still to feel that ‘there may yet be hope’ — at least for me. Even so, these words have rung like a refrain on the edge of my consciousness — urging me to look for signs of such hope. And this is what I have seen.
Last Saturday I officiated at the funeral of a woman who was in her 80’s. Due to a medical accident more than fifty years ago Virgene was never able to have children of her own. She grieved this her whole life long. I stood at the back of the gathering space at the funeral home a little before we were to begin. Almost four year old Mason sidled up to me and with a huge smile on his face, tucked his hand in mine. We are friends from church, of course. I had not, until that moment realized his connection to the one who had died — that he was part of her extended, adopted family. And I knew, suddenly, that though she had raised no little ones of her own, Virgene had found ways to love children still. “There may yet be hope…”
This week was Vacation Bible School at our church. From Monday to Friday more than 70 children were led through a week’s worth of learning about what it is to be peace-makers in a world which aches for peace. I sat in on one of their games on Friday morning where they experienced what it would look like to stand between one who is angry and the one who is the brunt of that anger. They were learning how to stand up to bullies. Now, they were play acting, yes, and that can be hard for any of us, but it made me smile to see how difficult it was for a group of 4th graders to conjure up an angry face. They couldn’t do it without breaking out into giggles. “Oh, there may yet be hope…”
There was a second grader in our group of Vacation Bible School children named Jaxson. I did not know him before this week, and I cannot say that I really know him now except by name and face and voice. For here is how it was. Every time Jaxson saw me he called me “rotten egg.” He thought this was hilarious. I found it puzzling. Technically I am old enough to be his grandmother which one would think would garner some respect even if he did not know who I was. More than that, he certainly would have no way of knowing whether or not I am ‘rotten.’ This may be an odd learning, I know, but I couldn’t help but think back to being in second grade myself. Young Jaxson and his taunting teasing would have bothered me then. Maybe even scared me some. But now I find myself wondering if I can translate my same ‘un-offended, un-afraid puzzlement’ into a world where even among adults name calling is far too common and where we often too quickly categorize those who differ from us as ‘rotten.’ In fact, in such times and places is it possible for me to just be puzzled and not quickly offended? And wouldn’t even that small thing be something to strive for? “Indeed, may there yet be hope?”
And this… During the school year a youngster from the congregation I serve has been a regular participant in making lunches for hungry college students — contributing with his hands and his heart to feeding kids on our local university campus who are food insecure. His parents have talked to him about the fact that he has never known hunger. With their assistance and encouragement, young Noah has decided to make bookmarks to sell to support our lunch giveaway this next fall. (Click here for more information.) “Oh, I am convinced there is yet hope.”
I expect that the writer of Lamentations was not nearly as fortunate as I am for in a stretch of time which has surely ‘battered away’ at my sense of hope, I am still able to recognize signs of hope all around me. They keep me going. And they keep me looking for more evidence of the truth that in this world which God loves, “there may yet be hope…”
- How has the world battered at your sense of hope of late? Have you been able to see signs that “there may yet be hope?” What have you seen?
- My examples this week are all of children. Perhaps this is because they have simply been nearby in these last days. How about you? Are you more likely to see signs of hope in children than elsewhere? Why or why not?
- Surely it is a reflection of deep faith that the writer of Lamentations is able to utter these words at all. When and where have you known someone to reach for signs of hope when everything, in fact, seems hopeless?