5 Reasons Lament And Praise Must Stand Together In Worship
Worship in our various traditions includes proclaiming God’s goodness, power, and majesty. With confidence we speak of God’s nearness to the brokenhearted, of His tender care, and His faithful presence. All this is deeply, profoundly, and ultimately true. But is it always true of our lived experience?
If we are honest, often God seems far away; He does not always answer when we call; His presence does not feel as close as we proclaim. Sometimes horrible things happen to us or to those we love, and the God of healing and salvation seems reluctant or slow to act. How should the community of faith respond when our lived experience does not correspond to our faith-filled proclamation?
Psalms Of Both Lament And Praise
A common and often helpful response is to continue to proclaim the truth of God’s character and to recount His past faithfulness during times of suffering and difficulty. The Bible certainly echoes this kind of response to adversity, where praise becomes an act of faith. But scripture is not limited to responding in this way. In fact the more common response in the Bible is to be very candid about the experience of adversity and to cry out directly to God for relief. This cry for help is most often and clearly seen in the Psalms of complaint or lament.
More than one third of the Psalms are laments, which makes lament by far the most common kind of song in Israel’s songbook. The disparity between Israel’s songbook and a modern worship notebook or hymnal is remarkable. In both you will find songs of adoration, exuberant praise, and bold declarations of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. What is conspicuous by its absence in our worship corpus – modern or traditional – are songs of lament or complaint. Typically only a small fraction even gives a hint of our experience of adversity, weakness, and suffering. Few, if any, plumb the depth of suffering, or cry to God for justice like the lament Psalms.
“Whenever our RIGHT becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.”
— Oswald Chambers
During our six years here in Staunton, one of our traditions has been to attend the Memorial Day service at Gypsy Hill Park sponsored by one of the VFW Posts. It is always a meaningful service that honors those who have fallen in service to their country. I’ve included some pictures in a slide show.
In a couple of weeks, our churches will transform. They will feature blazing red colors. Various artworks depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit will be on display. Clergy will don their red vestments. Acts 2 will be read once more, and hymns featuring the Holy Spirit will be sung. Finally, the long Easter celebration is over. Let’s move onto something different – for an hour on a Sunday morning at least. All of the brouhaha that is Lent and Easter is over, and thus begins the long season excitingly dubbed The Season after Pentecost. Wow. Two millennia of Christian tradition, and after is the best we could come up with?
I always wondered why the Christian Church only celebrated Pentecost one day out of the entire year. Why did the Church not see fit to give Pentecost a season to call its own?
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
Today I encourage you to remember those who have fallen in service to our country. If you are able, I encourage you to find a local Memorial Day service. If you are here in Augusta County, there is a beautiful service held at the Gypsy Hill Park Bandstand. It starts at 10 AM and features the music of the Stonewall Jackson Brigade Band.
Remember those who have fallen in service to our country and especially pray for those who are missing a loved one as a result.