Edge of Faith May 2017 - Page 64

for churches to be reconciled to one another by lamenting together? What would it mean for denominations to confess to one another? The process of lament is really about truth- telling. If we read the book of Lamentations we are struck by rawness of the story-type; the honesty, the brutality, in fact, of how the story of suf- fering is shared. I think when we’re in community, we tend to not want to hear that kind of rawness and suffering and pain. But I think if we are really going to be a united commu- nity of believers, we’re going to have to sit and listen to each other’s suffering. We are going to have to have that kind of ...we are influenced by Western Civilization, so we attempt to manipulate God’s word to fall into what makes us feel comfortable. ” 64 • The Art of Faith Magazine • www.aofmag.com empathy and sympathy that is needed to hear each other’s stories.That can’t just be on the individual level. How can we encourage our churches? How can we encourage our denomi- nations, to more deeply reflect the lament that is in Scripture? That’s not just a short-term thing, that’s not just a once-a- year process. I would hope that it would mean a long-term commitment by communities, by churches and denomina- tions to say, “We really want to engage this narrative of lament. We’ve missed it for so long and what are the ways we can deepen that commitment?” That’s a wonderful vision. It would be great to have peo- ple share in that lamenting and to share their stories and their sufferings. I guess that accomplishes a couple differ- ent things. One, that Christians actually fulfill their duty to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and to love the down trodden. What you’re asking is really uncomfortable. But that space of uncomfortableness is where you grow spiritually. Exactly, exactly. I think we for- get that when we think about something like discipleship, that growth doesn’t always come in the safest places. I teach in my discipleship class about the need for two factors in growth, individual growth. One is a place of safety where you feel safe to grow, but also a place of discomfort, where you’re challenged to grow. Without one or the other, you end up with a kind of dys- functional growth because if you’re too safe, you don’t want to grow, and if you’re too uncomfortable, you don’t feel the safety to grow. What we’ve done gone overboard with the safety piece of it. As we say, we are creating communities that are safe places. That’s not bad, but sometimes those safe places need a prophetic intru- sion in order to jolt us out of our comfort because if we’re too safe, we might get too comfortable. There’s no reason to grow when you’re that com- fortable. You’re too comfort- able and you’re going to reside in that place for a long period of time. What lament does is jolt us awake, to say we can’t rest on our laurels. We can’t just sit and believe that every- thing is going to be ok and that everything is ok.Yes, we need a safe place but we also need the places where God inter- rupts our lives and intrudes upon our lives in a very pow- erful and prophetic way. That exactly is what lament does. Lament intrudes into our sta- tus quo and says this is not the way things are supposed to be. We are coming up towards the end of the interview. Is there any final thoughts that you’d like to share with the audience before we end the interview? One of the things that I hope Lamentations brings us back to is the deeper understand- ing of our history as a church. I wrote another book called, Forgive Us: A Call to Corporate Confession and how lament ties into that corporate confes- sion. The next book I am work- ing on is co-authored with a Native-American activist, and we’re trying to examine the ways that the American church, and the church throughout its history, have really done everything possible to dimin- ish and destroy non-European bodies. Native Americans lives have been destroyed, entire civilizations destroyed. African Americans were taken into slavery. These narratives are painful for us to hear, they cer- tainly don’t make us comfort- able. But this is a part of our heritage, this is a part of our story that we have done these atrocities to others. That’s why lament is necessary. It actually disrupts our lives. There are so many things within our histori- cal context of reality that we just have to deal with. What lament does is call us to deal with the truth. I would love to see the Church deal with the truth and to say, “These are the places where we have failed as a church.” Lament that and also look for ways to bring about hope in the midst of those failures. I want to mention the name of the book one more time: Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, InterVarsity Press Publication. You can pick it up at all quality book stores and online. Thank you once again for taking the time to share with us and for writing the book. Thank you very much, it was my pleasure. The Art of Faith Magazine • www.aofmag.com • 65