Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chapter 3, “The Pastoral Work of Pain - Sharing: Lamentations”

Chapter 3, “The Pastoral Work of Pain - Sharing: Lamentations” (Loc. 1088-1428)

“Among other things pastoral work is a decision to deal . . . with suffering” (Loc. 1092).  The Bible likewise shows God entering into our suffering. The book of Lamentations helps us see that suffering. The book of Lamentations helps us see that world of suffering which God enters. The book of Lamentations was traditionally read publicly on the Ninth of Ab, a fast remembering the Babylonian Captivity” (Loc. 1120). Lamentations is a highly structured book. “The laments are all composed on an alphabetic structure as acrostics. The five laments constitute, in company with Psalm 119, the most elaborate acrostic composition in the Bible” (Loc. 1130). Peterson traces some of the patterns of emotional movement found in the different portions of Lamentations. In the repetition of Lamentations Peterson sees that we return to consider our troubles even as we see they have an end. The pastor can help in healing. “the simple act of making an appointment to return to listen again to the tale of tragedy or sorrow or whatever begins to put boundaries around it” (Loc. 1181). Peterson further points out that the content of our lamentation is concrete. It is linked to actual happenings, not simply to feelings. Suffering has a root “in a locatable place and at a datable time” (Loc. 1196).

Peterson next moves to the concept of anger. “If, at one level, Lamentations is an immersion in human suffering, at another level it is an encounter with God’s anger” (Loc. 1243). Seeing suffering in a context which includes a personal God who can be angered also allows us to conceive of a God who can forgive. Here the person enduring trials can find comfort. Peterson observes that this leads to dignity, as opposed to the shame which other humanist traditions bring (Loc. 1315). Peterson is very critical of clinical pastoral training as it reduces the pastor to the servant of the medical model. It is through pastoral care that the hurting person can receive healing.

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