Planning for this Series
Week 4: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
When we hear the word “lament,” we often think of the Psalms. Yet this passage from Jeremiah is a clear-cut example of this genre. The preaching notes from this week will emphasize the repentant aspect of this passage, wherein the people of Israel are recognizing their sin and that God has seemingly abandoned them. This notion of recognition that God is more distant than “usual” will be a helpful framing for the response to the Word.
Consider incorporating a writing exercise in your congregation. Provide small sheets of paper (such as an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of copy paper cut in half horizontally) and writing instruments. Following the sermon, allow some space for people to write their own laments. What is making people sad or upset? Where do people feel forsaken by God? Where could people use the healing balm of Gilead? Accompany this time with silence, or highlight some musicians who can play “There is a Balm in Gilead” as instrumental worship.
It will be important to set up this response as pastorally as possible. Many people do not feel “allowed” to lament to God, so it is best to explicitly name that this is a shared Jewish-Christian practice. Conclude the time of lament and reflection by emphasizing that God hears our laments, and by singing “There is a Balm in Gilead” (The United Methodist Hymnal, 375).
Written by guest writer, Nelson Cowan, Ph.D. Liturgical Studies: Boston University School of Theology.