Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A time to lament

[Presented as part of November, 2011 South Loop Campus Ministry board meeting.]

When the darkness appears
 And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand, 
guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

Seeming to based on Romans 5:20, this is written on a
wall of a loading dock by Lower Columbus Drive. SLCM
volunteers regularly deliver sandwiches to homeless
folks who sleep there.
I don’t know how long we would have stood there, at the corner of Lower Wacker and Lower Michigan,
with the homeless woman crying and wailing about the cold, about being hungry, about the conditions in the shelters…about so many things. I don’t know how long we would have tried to hold her hand, squeeze her shoulders, pray silently and pray aloud, nod empathetically and stare blankly back at her. I don’t know how long we would have felt helpless to help.
            I don’t know how long we would have been stuck in our not knowing if Thomas, one of our homeless guides, hadn’t tapped me on the shoulder and said, “She’s like this all the time, and now I probably won’t get any sleep tonight. Time to move on.”
            Walter Brueggemann wrote in Prophetic Imagination that lament is a necessary action to break out the paralysis of what he calls the “royal consciousness”, that state of being stuck in whatever state we’re in right now. That status quo always serves the already powerful and always hurts the already hurting. And damn—that woman at the corner of Lower Wacker and Lower Michigan was hurting and lamenting.
            In a much quieter manner students were lamenting up on the 14th floor of Roosevelt University’s Wabash Building where we had set up a Reformation Day door. Students wrote their grievances and their visions for change in the world on pieces of paper and then literally nailed them on the door. People wrote about everything from a living wage for workers to legalization of pot to “some lovin’ for Mexicans”. I don’t know exactly what spurred them to write what they did, but a lot of people liked the action of nailing their “theses” to the door. I suppose it was an avenue to release some of their pent up anguish. I doubt our flimsy door could survive a full release of their anguish.
            Sometimes in ministry pastors can get to thinking that people have such petty problems. Don’t these people know that while they’re whining about their roommates other folks are freezing down by the Chicago River? And don’t get me started on economic inequality…
            Here’s the thing—lament is lament, even if I don’t understand why a certain issue is problematic. If justice is “right relationship”, then injustice must be broken relationship. And that is something to lament.

Kyrie eleison.