Hope In The The Midst of Lament

The following 'Prayer Service Sermon' is posted with family permission.  May the Lord give to the family of Marvin Meyer, and all who mourn, comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in the Lord's loving care. 

Text: Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

It is a good feeling to have hope.  With hope, a person walks with a smile, the world seems lighter, and there is even a skip in the step.  Hope keeps us going in the midst of life.  However, as we know, hope can come, and hope can go.  Indeed, hope can quickly rise and quickly fall, just like the waves of the ocean. 

I think it is safe to assume that we may be a little low on hope this evening – hope has fallen.  Our brother Marvin has passed away.  Death has struck Marvin, which has inflicted grief upon us and caused us to shuffle our feet and slouch in sorrow.  Indeed, tonight we find ourselves much like the Israelite people in our reading from the Book of Lamentations.      

Very briefly, if you were to spend the rest of the evening reading through the Old Testament book of Lamentations, you would find that it is a very depressing and heavy book.  It was written some 600 years before Christ came to us in the manger.  It was written right after the nation of Babylon destroyed the city of Jerusalem, which resulted in Jerusalem being in ruins. The temple had also been destroyed.  The majority of her people had been led away into humiliating exile, displaced to live in a foreign country named Babylon. Those that were left were experiencing complete impoverishment and a terrible famine. Nobody would’ve been able to say, “Things could be worse!” Things could not have been worse.  There was no glimpse of sun in the complete stormy chaos. 

The book of Lamentations means what it sounds like.  It is the lament and tears of the prophet Jeremiah over his people and over his current circumstances.

In the midst of the chaos, destruction, and violence, though, we come upon our verses that we just read tonight from Lamentations chapter 3.  These verses are like clean and fresh water in the midst of a sun-scorched desert.  In the midst of the lamenting, the agony, the pain, and the loss we read these verses that speak of hope.  Hope for Jeremiah, hope for Israel, and hope for us in our present grief and pain as well. 

Yes, tonight’s verses from Lamentations speak of hope that is not found in the circumstances of the Israelites.  They speak of hope that is not found within the feelings of the people.   They speak of hope that steers eyes away from feelings and away from circumstances to Almighty God’s faithfulness.

Dear friends, it is so very easy to come to funerals and lose hope.  Even hearing the news about death causes hope to fracture.  The sight of the casket, the sight of the hearse, hearing an obituary, a phone call telling us that a father, a husband, and a friend has passed away, can all seem to crush hope.  But this does not mean all hope is lost.  You see, as we have just heard, Jeremiah expresses hope – not sadness –while everything around him seemed to be hopeless.  The reason why this was so?  His hope was in God’s steadfast love, God’s unending grace.  Think about this for a moment; things can be bad in life; however, bad circumstances do not necessarily have to fracture hope. 

Our Christian hope arises only from the fact that the Lord has mercy upon us and creates hope in us.  That is to say; Christian hope does not come from the circumstances and feelings of life.  Christian hope is not anchored in the ups and downs of life.  But rather, Christian hope is anchored in the steadfast love and steadfast faithfulness of our Lord, shown to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So are we to simply look away from the casket this evening?  Are we to forget the reality that we have lost out brother, Marvin?  Are we to man up and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, so that we can somehow hope in God’s faithfulness?  Believe it or not, but lamenting is not a bad thing. Our tears and agony about the pains of life are precisely how God created us to be. Jeremiah lamented over the hopelessness of his circumstance and the inabilities of the people.  He confessed the sin of his people and the problems and pain of life.  He lamented to God; He cried out for mercy… So, what this means is that when bad things happen in life – when death strikes a blow to us – we get to lament the desperation of our circumstances.  We get to lament over the loss of Marvin.  We get to lament the pain of death.  We get to lament the loss of a father, husband, and friend.  But, we must not stop there.  The reason why: we also get to hear the hopeful message of God’s faithfulness to you, to me, and to Marvin.  We get to hear the Christian hope in the midst of the grief and sorrow that we face. 

It is like this.  The Apostle Paul in the New Testament confesses that he is a mere and weak fragile jar of clay, but the Lord’s power is greater than him.   The Apostle Paul confesses that he is hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.  He confesses that he is perplexed but not in despair.  He confesses that he is persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.  Paul says that even though the outer nature is wasting away that he does not lose heart.  In other words, Paul does not lose heart because he knows that it is not this temporary life that we derive hope from.  Rather we derive our hope from what is eternal and sure. 

As all of this was true for Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul, it is true for you this night as well.  What is true?  The Lord’s steadfast love that never ceases is true.  His mercy never come to an end is what is true. This means that you can hope in Him. 

Christ is sure my friends.  God’s promises are sure in the midst of uncertainty.  Your identity and your worth are in Christ.  Nothing in the events of today or tomorrow can change what Christ did for you.  God’s love is steadfast for you because Christ’s salvation still stands for you.  There is hope in the midst of despair for you and me, that hope is the Christ. 

And this hope in the sure and steadfast foundation of Jesus belongs to Marvin as well.  Forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and the promised resurrection belong to Marvin!    

Tonight, we lament the loss of Marvin, but we do not lose hope.  We do not lose hope, for nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s steadfast love that is revealed to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.    

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