Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Lament and Hope: Finding Light in the Darkness, Tears in the Night

As we embark on the sacred journey of Lent, we will walk alongside the ancient Israelites as they lamented the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. We will spend the season of Lent in the book of Lamentations. There we will encounter a poignant expression of grief and sorrow. In Lamentations, the people mourn the loss of their homeland and wrestle with the consequences of their sin.

During Lent, we too are called to enter a season of reflection and repentance as a community. Together we will contemplate the brokenness of our world. We will reflect on the ways we have strayed from God’s path. Like the Israelites, we will lament the state of our sin and the troubles of our communities. We will lament the loss and grief in our own lives. Together we will recognize the need for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The journey of Lent is marked by a spirit of humility and contrition. In Lent, we acknowledge our own frailty, and we turn to God in prayer. As we listen to the words of Lamentations, Scripture reminds us of the consequences of sin. It asks us to seek reconciliation with God and one another.

But even during a season of lament, there is hope. Just as the Israelites looked forward to the promise of restoration and renewal, we too anticipate the ultimate victory of Easter Sunday—the triumph of life over death, and the promise of new beginnings.

As we turn our attention to the book of Lamentations, we enter a world of sorrow and lament. The once-great city of Jerusalem lies in ruins, its streets silent and desolate. Lamentations was written in the aftermath of the city’s destruction by the Babylonians. It offers a raw and heartfelt expression of grief. It captures the pain and anguish of a people who have witnessed the collapse of their beloved homeland.

Imagine walking through the streets of Jerusalem—a city that was once a magnificent city teeming with life and vitality. But now, as you make your way through its crumbling streets, you are met with a scene of utter devastation. Buildings lie in ruins, their walls torn down by the ravages of war. The echoes of crowded streets and festivals replaced by the deafening silence of despair. The center of God’s house is a gaping hole.

As you wander through the city, you come across a scattered group of people sitting in the rubble— survivors of the destruction or bystanders overcome with grief. You approach them cautiously, unsure of what to say in the face of such an overwhelming loss. As you draw nearer, you see each one bearing their own burden of sorrow and suffering.

In this scene of desolation, you are struck by the haunting beauty of the words that pour from their lips—the words of Lamentations. They lament for the city that was once so great, now reduced to ashes and dust. With each verse, you are drawn deeper into their grief. You find yourself sharing in their pain and mourning the loss of all that once was.

You are surprised and comforted to realize that their cries hold a glimmer of hope. They have hope because they believe that God is present, even in the darkest of times. In their grief, God gives them comfort and solace. As you listen to their lamentations, you feel the resilience in their spirit and the power of their faith.  We too can rely on God to sustain us in times of trial and tribulation.

Let’s hear their lament for their great city:

Lamentations 1:1-2

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

2 She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

I have heard a similar lament here, in our church. I have heard you lament the loss of your once thriving church filled with children and young students. A time of pastors long ago when your church was vibrant. A time we had hopes of our property housing an even bigger congregation. You have said goodbye to many. Some have left for new adventures in faraway places. Some have left for their heavenly home. Others have left us for different churches down the street.

Yet during your sorrow, you have continued to serve God’s people. You have turned your lament into a place of refuge. You serve as God’s hands and feet for those who are suffering their own lament. We serve those who struggle to provide food for their families. We serve those who grieve over the loss of loved ones. We serve those who suffer addiction and their personal, economic and relationship losses.
We have turned our lament into faithful, loving service that brings hope to many.

Part of lament are the good memories of things that are gone now. We hear this in our next verse:

Lamentations 1:7

Jerusalem remembers,
in the days of her affliction and wandering,
all the precious things
that were hers in days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
and there was no one to help her,
the foe looked on mocking
over her downfall.

Perhaps this Lenten season, you will lament over a time when life was better. Maybe you felt fulfilled and accomplished. Then circumstances changed, and life became more difficult. The successes of old faded and struggle began. How do we deal with this kind of loss?

Lament is needed and healthy, but the past can be in our windshield, or it can be in our rear window. The past makes for a lousy windshield. It keeps us from healing. It keeps us from accepting what God has planned for us next. We must remember that God is still sovereign. God walks with us through all of life’s challenges and offers us renewal.

Jerusalem’s memories of past glory served as a source of inspiration for its future. A future that ultimately was fulfilled in Christ. In Lamentations, the poet focuses on the past and on what has been lost. But we will see that the poet never loses hope in the future because God is sovereign. As we reflect on our past, it can be bittersweet, especially in contrast with our present challenges. Through faith and hope, we have resilience and the capacity for change and growth.

But first, we may need to confront some issues and turn some things around.

Lamentations 1:8

Jerusalem sinned grievously,
so she has become a mockery;
all who honored her despise her,
for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans,
and turns her face away.

Lamentations 1:8 turns our attention to the consequences of sin in our lives. Like Jerusalem, we experience the weight of our missteps. We may have gone astray from God’s path. Consider how you have fallen short of God’s “Way of life?” How have we as a community veered from God’s path?

Even in our failures, there is hope for renewal. Lent provides a sacred opportunity for us to turn back towards God in repentance and humility. As we face our short comings, we turn to God for forgiveness. We recommit ourselves to lives of holiness. God’s grace is sufficient to cover our lapses and worse. Through Christ, we are offered the gift of redemption and renewal.

May we be convicted of our need for repentance and renewal, so that we may experience the transforming power of God’s love and grace in our lives. Let us turn towards the light of Christ, knowing that in Him, we find forgiveness, healing, and true freedom.

Let us consider the weight of our sin in this next passage:

Lamentations 1:13-14

From on high he sent fire;
it went deep into my bones;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all day long.

My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
by his hand they were fastened together;
they weigh on my neck,
sapping my strength;
the Lord handed me over
to those whom I cannot withstand.

The view of the poet is that when we choose to sin, God allows us to experience the repercussions. This is the consequence of giving humanity free will. Lamentations expresses the burden that we carry. As we go into Holy Week, we will see Christ carrying the burden of his cross and ultimately taking the burden of our sins on himself.

In our church, we support both AA and NA communities on their road to recovery. With respect for the people in those communities and those in our own family who have fought the demons of addiction and sought restoration, I created this story.

In the heart of San Antonio, there was a worship community of resilient souls. They had weathered life’s storms and emerged stronger on the other side. Among them were those who had walked the path of recovery. Their hearts were filled with gratitude for the grace that had carried them through.

One bright sunny day, the congregation gathered in the old church for their weekly service. Among them sat Maria, a woman with a ten-year AA chip clutched tightly in her hand. As the pastor began to read from the book of Lamentations, her heart stirred within her. The words spoke to her soul, reminding her of the fires of addiction that had once raged within her, consuming her from the inside out. She remembered the darkness and despair that had left her feeling faint and weary.

But as she listened, Maria felt a sense of peace wash over her. She knew that she was not alone in her struggles, that God was with her. God was guiding her through the valleys and the shadows. She knew God’s grace and mercy in her being. Maria felt a renewed sense of hope stirring within her, a hope that whispered of daily renewal and new beginnings.

After the service, Maria found herself surrounded by friends. Each offered words of encouragement and support. They shared stories of their own struggles and victories. Their hearts were knit together by a bond of adversity they all strove to overcome.

As Maria walked home that day, with her ten-year chip in hand, she felt a sense of gratitude swelling within her. She knew that her journey was far from over, that there would be challenges and obstacles ahead. She also knew that she was not alone. She had a community of faith and support for recovery and a God who loved her beyond measure.

With a renewed sense of determination, Maria set out to face the days ahead. She put her trust in God’s unfailing love and grace to carry her through.

As we read this final verse for today, I want us to bring our sin to the Lord in prayer.

Lamentations 1:20

See, O LORD, how distressed I am;
my stomach churns,
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves;
in the house it is like death.

Let’s take time for silent prayer. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and mind and bring you to confession before our loving God. You can respond to the Spirit in different ways. Come, write your sins and burdens on a note card here, and nail it to the cross. If you want prayer, walk up and I will pray with you. If you want to humble yourself in God’s holy presence, sit or kneel where you are or come forward to this front row. Take the hand of the person next to you and pray silently together in support and solidarity. Lord Jesus, hear our prayers we offer you now.

[SILENCE]

Heavenly Father,

In this moment of reflection and prayer, we echo the words of Lamentations 1:20. We acknowledge the depths of our distress, the turmoil within our hearts, and the weight of our rebelliousness. We confess, O Lord, that there have been times when we strayed from Your path.

But even in our distress, we turn to You, O Lord, knowing that You are a God of mercy and compassion. You see the pain within our hearts; You hear the cries of our souls; and You offer us Your grace and forgiveness. So, we come before You with humility, seeking Your renewal.

Lord, we lift up to You all those who are gathered here today, each one carrying burdens too heavy to bear alone. We pray for those who are struggling. May Your presence be a source of comfort and strength to them, bringing healing to their wounded hearts and hope to their weary souls.

We pray for our community, O Lord, for those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, for those who are facing financial hardship, for those who are battling illness, and for those who are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. May Your light shine brightly in the darkness, illuminating the path of peace and reconciliation for all who seek You.

As we enter the week ahead, may Your Spirit continue to work within us. Holy Spirit, transform our hearts and renew our minds. May we be instruments of Your love and grace in the world. May our lives shine as lights of hope in a world that is longing for Your presence.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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