Read: Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Today is the day of great waiting as we stand between the Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We can look in both directions.
Today is also the final installment on this Lenten calendar. If you have used this resource over the past forty days, there should be no question that God is deeply concerned about the material world, our economic life together, and the ways in which we get and hold our goods. Central to God’s deep concern over the material world and economic life is the plight of the poor, the weak, those for whom the ways of this world have not resulted in sufficiency, rest, and security.
In his epistle, James reminds us that the cause of righteousness is not advanced when we simply offer prayers and good wishes for the poor when we are in a position to offer material help too. Words and thoughts on their own are not sufficient, but they are significant. On this day of waiting and expectation, we can use today’s reading as a model for offering up our own laments to God on behalf of the poor, on behalf of the earth, on behalf of the economies of the world. Paul tells us that the whole creation groans before God as it awaits its redemption. Today, join your voice to that groaning as you prepare to welcome the fire of Easter.
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with your and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 170)
Stephen Fowl is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Maryland.