Lament. Songs of mourning. Plaintive cries to God from a world-gone-wrong.
The biblical tradition of lament invites us to take hold of three things at the same time: (1) the world as we experience it is not, in fact, the world as God wants it to be; (2) that God’s commitment to the world is failing at this point of pain, suffering, and death; and (3) that we have a right to expect that our demands for a better world will be met by the God with the power to do something about it.
Riffing off of Walter Bruegemann here, lament means that we honor God by agreeing with what he’s told us about what a good world looks like: a world of justice, a world of abundance, a world of peace.
Lament means we honor God by coming to God as the one who actually has the power to do something about this world gone awry.
And, lament means we honor God’s choosing of us as his people by taking up our place, the people of God on behalf of the whole, to demand that God act for the good of the afflicted.
Lament confesses God’s goodness, God’s power, and God’s choice of a people to be God’s agents for the world’s blessing.
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld
And that is why we need to never lose sight of the fact that Jesus cries out to God in heart-broken lamentation, calling on God to act God’s part as deliverer of God’s beloved children.
This is what it is for Jesus to enter into prayer in the garden, crying out, “Abba, Father.”
It is a cry of lament.
It is a cry made in anticipation of the later cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus was truly forsaken. The father was not delivering the son. The son prayed for God to act in accordance with God’s fatherly power and protection and deliverance.
A cry on behalf of himself. But also a cry on behalf of the world who was represented by him, the messiah. The representative king of God’s representative nation.
Crying out to a God who would not answer, yet, in the face of death.
We must remember that Jesus’ cry, “Abba, Father,” is a cry of lament, because here our words are said to echo his.
It is the Spirit of God by which we cry out, “Abba, Father,” showing that we are God’s children and heirs–”if, indeed, we suffer with him in order that we might also be glorified with him.”
This is a cry of suffering and lament.
It is a cry that wells up simply because of how the world is–a place where God’s power has been usurped. And usurped repeatedly.
We cry out, not only for our own suffering, but for suffering with Christ which is a suffering whose deliverance yields the age to come.
The whole creation awaits the revealing of these sons–no longer suffering, but glorified and redeemed.
The creation awaits the answer of God to the laments of God’s people.
God answered Jesus.
He raised him from the dead.
This newness of life spills over, such that it is ours. Now. Already. Even as we live into it by the way of the cross, and by taking up our own cry, “Abba, Father,” on behalf of the many, even as Jesus himself cried out on behalf of the many.
As long as the world is not as it should be.
As long as children are trafficked for sex.
As long as women are enslaved for their bodies.
As long as stomachs rumble with no bread to quiet them.
As long as tongues swell with no water to shrink them.
As long as money defines justice with no one to declare it bankrupt.
As long as bankruptcy overtakes people entrapped in cycles of injustice.
As long as our lives are taken from us by cancer and bullets and cars.
As long as there is a world that needs to be set to rights, there must be a people standing up for that world in the presence of God. There must be a people living out the world’s suffering in the presence of a father with the power to deliver.
There must be a people who cry out, “Abba, Father,” even to the point of death, even death on a cross.