donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: Leslie C. Allen, A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations, Baker Academic, 2011; in: Theology

Leslie C. Allen, A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations, Baker Academic, 2011

Review in: Theology 2012 115: 357
Review door: H.A. Thomas
Gevonden op:

Leslie C. Allen, A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations,
Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2011;
208 pp.: 9780801039607, £13.99/$21.99, (pbk)

This is an extraordinary commentary. The recent upsurge of interest in the biblical book of Lamentations is a result, it seems, of its ability to speak to pain and suffering. In a world that faces both with alarming regularity the resource of Lamentations is like water to a thirsty land. Allen draws deep from the well and offers it to all who will drink. The book begins with an introduction from Nicholas Wolterstorff, who characterizes Allen’s work as ‘a book to be savored’ (p. vii), and this is a suitable description of the experience afforded the careful reader. As a ‘pastoral’ commentary, the volume enables its readers (especially pastors, counsellors or chaplains) to access Lamentations as a tool for what Allen calls ‘caregiving’: dealing compassionately with those who grieve (pp. 25–9).

Allen himself balances the roles of an academic professor and a chaplain, and his role as a chaplain comes through in powerful ways, most notably the maturity of insight on delicate subjects of suffering as well as anecdotal stories from his own chaplaincy that help to illustrate his discussion. The introduction (pp. 1–29) is aware of current critical discussion on the book and yet does not get bogged down into the minutiae of detail. Rather, it brings the scholarly discussion to bear on what he sees as the central themes of Lamentations: (1) the articulation of grief, guilt and prayer (esp. in Lam. 1—2); (2) the significant role of the wounded healer of Lamentations 3 who, in his pain, becomes a ‘caregiver’ for the community of sufferers; (3) the persistence of grief and the hope that it will end (Lam. 4); and (4) the community’s voicing of grief that marks a turning point in the poetry (Lam. 5). Allen suggests that Lamentations 5 is such a turning point because it is here that the community begins to process the grief that was expressed previously by Zion and the man in Lamentations 1—4. The communal articulation of grief, according to Allen, marks a positive movement in the processing of the pain of exile. It is in the fifth poem that all of the other themes are brought together and offered up to God in prayer.

The commentary proceeds in a linear fashion through the poems. The exegesis is helped by a section of ‘translation notes’, which provide rationale for some of the translation decisions Allen has made (pp. 171–9). A useful bibliography, both for Lamentations study, grief study, and pastoral care, resides in the back of the book (pp. 180–90) along with a scriptural index. All told, this is a valuable book for those who need a good word, healing balm and instruction for those who grieve. Highly recommended.

H. A. Thomas
Southeastern Seminary,
Wake Forest, North Carolina
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