A Rewritten Lamentations 5

By Timothy Wotring, member of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s Executive Committee

During this time of quarantine and protest; of rage and frustration; of confusion and fear, the Bible provides for us a much-needed resource: lament.

Six centuries before the birth of Christ, the Babylonian Empire ransacked Jerusalem in Ancient Judah. They forcefully removed thousands of Hebrew people into exile. Yet, many were still left behind. The Empire deemed those in the pillaged land as worthless. As the story goes, the Prophet Jeremiah stayed behind and is said to have written Lamentations.

The Book of Lamentations mourns
the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple,
the uprooting of livelihoods,
& the absence of God.

How can we not lament this moment, our moment?

More than a million people have died from the coronavirus.
In the US, more than 225,000 alone are from the US, with our Indigenous and Black siblings suffering the most.

Even with the pandemic, racism and white supremacy have not taken a day off.

In recent weeks, Black Lives Matter protests and vigils have risen up across cities big and small, and globally. We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Dominique Fells, Walter Wallace Jr., and so many more.

At the same time, the current administration continues to strip the rights and protections of trans and queer folx.

The EPA restrictions on pollution are being removed.

Most of us feel powerless under the weight of systems that just won’t let up.

We don’t have the answers, so we lament.

This is a re-imagining of Lamentations 5:

Remember, O God, our devastating situation;
look upon our anger and rage!

Thousands are dead,
and those who call themselves leaders are more like enemies.

We feel powerless and lost,
a directionless people.

Our lives have become militarized and privatized;
over decades, corporations have decimated our public life.

We are under the gaze of white supremacy and markets.
Profits are placed over people and we work ourselves to death.

The State forces citizens to use charities, instead of creating a social safety net.
Lines for food banks wrap around the block.

Society wants us to believe that slavery and Jim Crow are things of the past,
but the consequences of white supremacy affect us all.

Politics should be the art of the common good,
but greed and gluttony rule our land.

We march and petition for a more just world,
since it’s through participation that change is made.

Millions are still unemployed or underemployed,
and our vision for a better world is getting foggy.

The vulnerable and marginalized are talked over,
the powerful have the last and only word.

We feel abandoned by good and faithful guidance,
and most of us are afraid to rise up.

Our idea of those who are essential has shifted,
grocery employees, sanitation workers, and doctors have become heroes.

Weariness and stubbornness are setting in,
yet this is not a plague-cation.

The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.

The United States is slowly becoming a fallen Empire,
out of the rubble, justice will bloom.

Our hearts yearn for that day,
our eyes are peeled.

While we search and pray,
we practice resurrection.

We pray as Jesus taught us, Our God in Heaven,
But why don’t you come down?

Why do you feel absent?
Do you not care about our struggles?

We admit that we have a better imagined past, where the grass is greener.
Shake us up, Holy One, and show us a better future.

We need to hear a word from you.
Don’t go too far!