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Lent 5 – Lament and Life

“The Death of Adam” from The Legend of the True Cross, Piero Del Francesca (1466)

Grieving for the World
Lent 5 2020
Rev. Doug Floyd
Ezekiel 37:1–14, Psalm 130, Romans 6:15-23, John 11:1-44

Today’s readings focus on life out of death. Suffering and death is held together in tension with hope and life. Ezekiel prophesies life over a field of bones. Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb back to life. Paul tells us that, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:25). These texts are preparing us to move toward the Holy Week as we remember the cross of Christ, Christ in the tomb, and the Risen Christ. We read these texts in light of a world pandemic that has killed thousands of people. We hold together the ache for those suffering with the hope we have in Christ.

Long before Ezekiel prophecies over a field of dead and dry bones, he is standing among the exiles in Babylon. They are waiting for the Lord to restore them and fulfill his promises to Israel, but Ezekiel sees something entirely different. He sees the Glory of the Lord leave the Holy Land and draw near to the exiles. His ministry focuses on telling the people that they are not going home, that the people have desecrated the land and the Temple, and that the glory has departed. The people of Israel have gone past the offenses of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Day of the Lord has come and there is no going home. They are being dispersed to the four winds.

The early chapters of Ezekiel are filled with strange prophetic words and behaviors and dark visions of a people turned away from God. Jeremiah will give voice to the grief of this judgment especially in the book of Lamentations. The Psalms will also bear the pain of judgment. In the Scripture of Lament, we hear the voice of prophets grieve over the result of human sin and rebellion. We also hear the grief of our Lord Jesus Christ, crying over His people. These are the lamentations of our Lord for His fallen people and for all the nations who have turned away from God.

Psalm 130 is a Song of Ascent, a song for traveling to Jerusalem to worship. It gives voice to the cry of a people drowning in the depths of despair because of their own unrighteousness. It gives voice to our own brokenness that we cannot even fully express. In fact, it gives voice to generations of people who may be so broken they’ve lost the ability to grieve, to a people to damaged they’ve grown hard and cold, to a people who’ve turned from the Lord are blind and deaf to His voice. The prophets reveal to us the cry of our Savior Jesus Christ for a world crushed under the pain of sin and death. He has grieved for us and for the nations when we did not even realize our lowly estate. He has descended beneath us, beneath our brokenness, our pain, our rebellion, our hardness of heart, our idolatry, and coldness.

As I meditated upon Psalm 130 this week, I thought of a poem by Robert Cording in response to Piero Del Francesca’s painting, “The Death of Adam.” In this painting, Adam lays dead and a young girl’s face is wrenched in a scream of anguish. Behold this image, Cording writes,

…one child finds her mouth opened
Against the silence of a face turned away.
From her mouth,
The stricken landscape
No one has ever finished restoring,
Their deep syntax of grief
Something we must have understood even before
We could speak it.[1]

Cording is suggesting this grief, this cry, the pain of death vibrates within the heart of all creation. We had already experienced it before we even had words. But even deeper than this human anguish, is the anguish of God for His people and His creation. Romans 8 gives us some sense of this deep cry at the heart of the world. Creation feels the weight of sin and is groaning for the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We are grieving groaning with the creation and the Spirit is groaning deeper than our own words. This grieving, this lamentation, this groaning is a cry for restoration.

In the midst of our current world crisis, we take up the words of Psalm 130 as a cry for ourselves, for our nation, for the refugees, for the homeless, for the prisoner, for all the nations of the world. We cry out for the thousands who are suffering, who are in fear, and who are dying. As we cry out, we enter into the deep groaning of creation for redemption.

Our Psalm ends in hope.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
                   And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities. Ps 130:7–8.

Even as our readings point to hope. Israel who has been dispersed to the four winds. is being called back to life. Lazarus who has lain in tomb for days in being called to come forth. We ourselves who have born the sentence of death by sin in our bones are being called to eternal life. And all this is pointing us to Jesus who will lay in the tomb of death and the Father will raise Him by the power of the Spirit of Resurrection. In His resurrection, we see the but the first-fruits of the hope for the resurrection of all things in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let us enter into the grieving of the nations. Let us take up Psalm 130 on our lips. Let us put our hope in Christ alone, who by the power of the Spirit is leading us and the nations to our Father in heaven.

[1] “The Mouth of Grief” by Robert Cording, from A Word in My Mouth: Selected Spiritual Poems, Cascade Press (2013), p. 59.


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