Lord, your people are crying in pain.
How long, Lordie?
When will you give us your help and your comfort again?
How long, Lordie?
For the last two weeks my Bible notes have been following the books of Amos and Habukkuk.
Habakkuk 1:2 opens with the words:
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
In Amos, chapter 5, Amos weeps for the house of Israel in the form of a lament. The Revd Canon Dr Jules Gomes, author of this week’s Bible notes writes:
Lament is one of the most poignant and powerful forms of prayer in the Hebrew Bible. Over one-third of the Psalms contains laments. It is only the liturgy of lament that can counter the culture of self-congratulation, denial, cover-up, spin, canned laughter, synthetic and mind-numbing entertainment and privatisation of pain. It is a counter to every seduction that seeks to deny or explain away the reality of sin, suffering and death. If we do not lament our losses, we will pretend that nothing ever happened. And our situation will get worse, not better. Unless we plumb the depths of lament, we will never ascend to the mountaintops of praise.
I want to join in a lament for the people of Africa.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord heal me, for my bones are in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?
(Psalm 6:2-3 )
I am thinking of the Ebola crisis in several countries in West Africa. A new deadly virus, so infectious that the micro-organisms in the bodily fluids of one person can infect more than a million people. It is a modern day plague. I lament for the continent of Africa, a continent that sees and has seen so much suffering over the Centuries. How long, Lord? How long? Sometimes the suffering has been due to man’s inhumanity to man; sometimes it has been due to natural disaster; sometimes a combination of both. How long Lord? How long? Imagine the cruelty of this new illness. people dying where they stand. Everyone fearful. No dignity even in death. Not being able to see, touch or embrace the body of those who are dying or who have died. How long Lord? How long?
At last the world has sat up and taken notice, perhaps because the virus has arrived into our back yard with tragic consequences, in Dallas and in Spain. I am relieved that America and Britain are at last sending sending substantial help. Yet I am still sad. How long, Lord? How long?
Jules Gomes writes;
It was the African-American spirituals that inspired the slaves to move from lamentation to liberation. God weeps. Amos weeps. Jesus wept. Let’s make lament part of our prayer and protest.
I invite you to join with me in a Lament for the people of West Africa who have seen so much suffering and continue to suffer. How long, Lordie? How long?
(Warning:The song contains words that are offensive. The singer is describing words uttered to her by her cruel white boss.)