Church, stormy and cold—darkness
Alley, pitted and hidden—lonely
Cries, yells, anger, grief—peace-less
Lights flashing, feet running—panic
Shots ringing, life ending—broken
Heart pounding, blood spilling—lifeless
Life, holy and created—unformed
Hope, an infant, new and vibrant—no more
Grace spoken, yet unheard—lament
Streets, connected and communal—fear-filled
Faithfulness, compassion, mercy and love—hidden
Light promised, yet shrouded—darkness
This past week again, violence poured out from beneath the crusty shell of our city. According to some accounts, though not reported in the news, there was a fatality. Lately it has seemed that the peace-less extremes of our communal heart are growing more towards the center, becoming the norm instead of the exception. A city is a community—people bonded together whether we like it or not. What affects one affects all. A life, once created, is valuable and its loss is tragic.
So today, heaven echoes with the sound of our lament. God on the sixth day created for the first time, in his image. We sprang from his words a race of image bearers, a creation above the creation. And yet, on Lesher Alley one week ago, we dared to un-create, to un-form, to unmake, someone the Lord God himself chose to carry his image. Violent little projectiles, flying through the early evening darkness, insanely dared to brazenly undo what the Creator alone could form. The Breath of Life breathed in to this young boy now breathed out.
At moments, funerals need to happen not in churches and not for families only. Funerals need to happen for us all publicly and unhidden, on the streets where the deaths are occurring. A deception exists when no lament occurs. Life and meaning are divorced from one another. All life is valuable, regardless of how it is managed, for all life begins with a God who speaks it into existence. So a funeral this is, a short soliloquy, worshipful in its thankfulness for a God who creates and lament-full in the realization that we continue to steward his creative power so poorly.
Let us make man in our image, He said. And here we are, figuring out how to deal with that, how to live within it or live without it. Our origins are what they are whether we notice or not. A funeral is the way we recognize God as our origin. Lament allows us to face our shame in a way that can receive grace and tie together the creativity of God with the forgiveness He also offers when his creativity is uncared for. Lament bridges the gap between what should have been (breath still breathing, heart still pumping) and what is (broken remains of a hopeful life come to an untimely end).
Lament allows us to steward pain without escape and honor responsibility without criticism. Wandering urban streets it’s easy to speak prophetically about what should be, calling our leaders to attentiveness, calling our residence to responsibility. Or it’s easy to slide into apathy closing our hearts to pain, removing ourselves and allowing the hurt to continue unabated. Lament allows us the laying down of our critical hearts and words as we focus upward to God. He certainly laments when one of his is “uncreated.”
Each year in our streets people die. They die when it is too cold in the winter and there is no shelter. They die when it is too warm in the summer and air conditioning or electricity fail. They die as drugs, human trafficking, gangs and pure human evil work together to motivate violence. Sometimes they die of hunger or even loneliness and emotional hurt. The list is long, both of causes, and those who have lost their lives because of them.
Yet, in the sight of our God, who created each one, making and forming in his own image, the tragedy does not lessen with the numbers. Rather it grows. We dare not forget or remove ourselves. We dare not offer mere verbal criticism or outrage. We dare not even take action seeking in ourselves to stem the tide and end the tragedy. We must first lament, echoing his heart over what is now “uncreated.”