A Thanksgiving Lament
I felt like the road to Thanksgiving should be paved in honest lament and crying out to God – especially when ministering among the homeless. How could I walk into a gathering of over 100 of the poorest of my neighbors and instruct them to be thankful? At least without first giving ear to their cries for help and sorrowful laments?
And so we did. Psalm 13.
Stanza One: Questioning God
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Immediately I was met with argument; “You aren’t SUPPOSED to question God!” One older man yelled from the back of the Sanctuary.
Wow. Not what I was expecting right off the bat.
Here is the truth; the reality that some of the most vulnerable people I know believe it is wrong to cry out to God with questions, anger and a deep sense of being forsaken – that reality fills me with purpose.
So we plowed through.
Stanza: Calling Out to God.
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Jordan, a senior from DePaul, led this one. After unpacking it he asked if anyone had a lament to share – something that they were crying out to God about.
From the 2nd row a heavily medicated, young man raised his hand and timidly shared; “I want to kill myself. Every day. I can’t do it though because it’s the worst sin. I go to sleep every night and pray I won’t wake up. I don’t like to live in the nursing home. I don’t want to live there. I want to kill myself, but I know it’s the worst sin.”
One lament was all we heard, yet the echo was deafening.
With very reverent hearts and voices we thanked the man for his honesty.
Stanza Three: Trusting in God
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
As we concluded the Psalm, I could see the expressions in the congregation begin to show understanding. What a true joy it is to be able to air the darkness in our hearts and then lay back on the broad expanse of our Lord’s faithfulness and salvation!!! Thanks-giving never felt so precious!
To conclude our time of lamenting and thanksgiving, we offered communion. I did everything but talk them out of it in an attempt to not come across manipulative and to leave room for anyone who might be offended by such an offering by a protestant woman (either or both).
Before Jennifer started playing and singing “How Deep The Father’s Love”, in fact, before I was finished explaining that we would be “dipping” the elements, a line had formed. A line!
I went to my seat and watched as dozens of community members hurried to the communion table. Person after person after person filing up to receive the communion elements.
The service had gone from suicidal to sacramental – and it was holy. Profoundly holy.
A little later, I offered communion to the volunteers in the basement. As I stumbled over a prayer of thanksgiving and an intimate communion exchange in the run-down kitchen I was shocked to see tears, nearly sobs overtake a few.
It’s the Good News. For us all.