Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kainos Movement 2015 Conference | Main Session 8: A Prophetic Lament: Listening to All the Voices with Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Multi-Ethnic Network of Missional Communities Kainos Movement

 

Kainos Movement 2015 Conference Main Session 8: A Prophetic Lament: Listening to All the Voices with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah


Previous Kainos Movement 2015 Conference posts:




The following posts will feature my notes from the strong collection of Kainos 2015 pastors, nonprofit leaders, and sociologists who prophetically spoke into our segregated American cultureOur prayer, hope, and striving is that Emmaus City will be a transcultural and multi-ethnic church in Worcester, of Worcester, and for Worcester. As we move forward, we have much to gain from these men and women who have gone before us and lead the way in Jesus' name.

Kainos 2015 Main Session 8: A Prophetic Lament: Listening to All the Voices

 
Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Multi-Ethnic Network of Missional Communities Kainos Movement


Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

Master of Theology, Harvard University
Doctor of Ministry, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Doctor of Theology, Duke University
Serves on the boards of World Vision, Sojourners, the Christian Community Development Association, Evangelicals 4 Justice, Catalyst Leadership Center
Founding Member of the Boston Fellowship of Asian-American Ministers
Author of The Next Evangelicalism, Many Colors, Honoring the Generations, Forgive Us, Prophetic Lament

There is an unbiblical theme of triumphalism in the North American church.

We can hear this in our singing. For example, in the Scriptures, between 30-40% of the Psalms are laments. When looking at current Protestant hymnals, 10-15% of the hymns are laments, and that doesn't necessarily mean they are sung. And in looking at the Top 100 most popular Christian songs in the CCLI list, maybe 3-5 of the songs could be considered laments. And that's being generous.
We can hear this in our preaching. When was the last time you heard a sermon series on Lamentations? Lamentations is a book of the people's voices crying out in response to the exile to Babylon. 
Lament: Like singing with the empathy of visiting someone in the hospital
Funeral dirge: Like the cries of stepping into a room where there is a dead body with no hope of resurrection

Lamentations 1 and 2 begin as funeral dirges. "How (can this be)?" is the repeated cry. 

Far too many American Christians don't know how to ask "How?" For too many of us don't know how to sing a funeral dirge. Far too many don't know how to deal with the current dead bodies of African American men that are in our cities, in our "rooms."

Lamentations helps to show us where to begin. Hebrew poetry metering is often measured in rhythms like six beats in the first line and six beats in the second line. A lament reveals the limp and the brokenness of the person singing it. The first line is six beats and the second line is four beats like something has been taken away or injured. Who are we limping with? Who are we getting incarnationally low with to suffer with them?

Do we know that the American church's history is littered with the dead bodies of those we have wronged? There was a time in white Protestant church history when the auction bell for slaves and the church bell for service were rung at the same time by the same churches. Our histories are littered with dead bodies. And we continue to see similar themes in our country today. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the incarceration rate of African-American men is 6x more than the average white male leading some authors and historians to call our prison system the new slavery. There are more African-American men in prison today than there were slaves in 1840. The Missouri Compromise allowed into the Union this slave state which continued in slavery for years. And today, we still have confusion, injustice, and grief occurring in Ferguson, Missouri as a ripple effect to today.

We need a funeral dirge to counter the story far too often told in our churches of American exceptionalism. We need to listen to the voices of the marginalized. In Lamentations, the educated and most privileged are gone. The voices recorded by Jeremiah are those of the widows, the children, and the elderly who are left behind. Lamentations are many of their cries and the prophet Jeremiah wrote them down. Lamentations may be the most feminine book in the Bible because it is full of the voices of women who often lead in not silencing their pain and suffering. They help the community honestly grieve. They help the community mournfully heal. Sometimes ministry comes out of pain, not triumph. We need the voice of the praying mother, the praying spouse, the praying widow. Are we listening to their voices? 

After the slight reprieve of Lamentations 3, chapter 4 goes back to the themes of chapters 1 and 2. Pain and sorrow do not end so easily. Sometimes we don't say that it's going to be OK. Instead, we lament and grieve and mourn.

Where is the hope? Lamentations 5. The people don't have Jeremiah pray for them. The people pray for themselves. We need to pray through Lamentations 5 with the communities of Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, and Baltimore.

Are we teaching the people of God to come together to pray to their Holy Father by the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing Holy Jesus is interceding for them, so that in our church's mourning together with our communities, we will all be comforted by our Savior we desperately need?

  
– Sully

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