Lament (Graham Buxton)

Lament (Graham Buxton) July 16, 2012

Graham Buxton, whose book Dancing in the Dark, I recently blogged about on this blog, is a professor at Tabor Adelaide (and you can find him at Fuller Theological Seminary, too).

Lament by Graham Buxton: Lament and Remembrance in Ministry

Behind the deep cries of lament that afflict us all at times lie the pain and grief of feeling abandoned. But in the face of such lament we do well to recall that there is a God who has not forgotten us: ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!’ (Isaiah 49:15).

We are a remembered people…all of us.

Do you know you are a “remembered person” as part of God’s “remembered people”? Where do we need to see some “re-membering”?

Remembrance and compassion are in fact two sides of a single coin.

Walter Brueggemann points to the Israelites of old who cried out to God in lamentation and complaint, reminding him of their sense of forsakenness. In his faithfulness and unchangeableness, God offered both assurance and promise to his people. His loving-kindness, goodness and promise of peace are ‘more than enough to override the flood, to overcome the absence and shame, and to overmatch the terror of exile.’ Implicit in Brueggemann’s understanding of the relationship between disconsolate human beings and their God is the notion of remembrance: the people dare to recall their God as one who will still act for them, and the God to whom they cry still remembers his people.

Parker Palmer once said that ‘remembered means to re-member. It means to put the body back together. The opposite of remember is not to forget, but to dis-member. And when we forget where we came from…we have in fact dis-membered something.’

To remember someone in this way is to be a part of their healing. To respond to a person’s cry of lament, ‘Remember me!’, is to live in solidarity with that person in their struggle and pain; to tell someone that we will not forget them offers hope and reassurance in the midst of loneliness and despair. In pastoral ministry, not only do we remember who we are as God’s people, we also ‘re-member’ one another.

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  • When I was first reading the psalms, as I have done almost daily for years, I’d avoid the laments, because they were too painfully resonant. Over time, though, I began to appreciate the fellowship in suffering with the people who spoke and sang these psalms. Bruggemann is helpful, even though I’m not completely in agreement w/ his take on God (needing to repent, as I saw him comment in a recent video clip). I greatly appreciate Parker Palmer’s thoughts about re-membering as the antithesis of dis-membering. The dis-membering fits well w/ what I’ve observed in alienation, sadly, because alienation, sinfulness, distance and antagonism disconnect one from another. Re-membering, OTOH, welcomes the other, the broken and the penitent back, reconciling in the loving acts of welcome and restoration. Would you have the citation of Palmer’s quote handy, Dr. Buxton?

  • Graham Buxton

    Hi Ann – John Patton quoted these insights from Parker Palmer which he offered in an address to the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education in 1987 (see John Patton, Pastoral Care in Context: An Introduction to Pastoral Care (Louisville, WJKP, 1993, page 28)

  • Thank you! I should have spotted the CPE flavored take on reality… 🙂