Gone is the joy of our hearts;
Our dancing is turned into mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head;
Woe to us that we have sinned!
I remember as a child being constantly concerned about my sin. I grew up in a tradition that seemed at times to be obsessed with sinfulness, guilt, and shame. Being part of God’s family meant living in very specific kind of ways. There were long lists of spoken and unspoken rules as to what it meant to follow Jesus. If you fell short the punishment had eternal consequences.
You can imagine the effect that this kind of belief system can have on someone. I was always concerned about my salvation, about my going to heaven. I would make sure to confess every night as much as I could remember, I wanted to cover all my bases. Sin meant something.
I do not wish to go back to those days. It took me a long time to recover my trust in God, it took me a long time to find grace and claim it for myself and for the world. I am thankful that I encountered people in my journey who walked with me, reminding me time and time again that I was a beloved child of God.
Yet, I think we might at times not take the power of sin seriously. Although we should not obsess over it or give it more power than it deserves, we should at least lament it.
Sin exists in the world, in us. We miss the mark, hurt others, ourselves, and the created order. In the rite of Baptism we claim to repent, to turn around from our sinfulness and claim the power of the Spirit in our cleansing. This cleansing is needed in us and in all of humanity. Turn on the television, read the newspaper, or look in the mirror and you will be face to face with the reality of sin in the world.
The power of lamentation is that it leads to repentance. We must acknowledge our brokenness and the brokenness we cause before we can experience and be the bearers of the grace made available to us through Christ.