We continue in our Heart of Worship Series today with a second look at the theme of Lament. I think that a cursory glance at lament is not giving honour to such an important theme in this journey of worship as we build the ’pillar of worship’ for Ashmore Uniting Church. Old Testament theologian Bernhard Anderson says that lament is praise offered in a minor key. We have a tendency to avoid the minor key. Most music that is sung in churches is not written in this way. We prefer our songs to be upbeat and joyful. This would suggest that, like the world around us, we generally avoid pain and suffering. (i.e. – life in the ‘minor key’). One of the things that I love about our church is that we have a value that urges us to experience authentic worship. This means that we will try to face life’s realities and we will find ways of expressing our whole lives within the context of our worship. True worship should connect us with reality.
The book of Psalms is the hymnbook of the people of God. The psalms were sung publicly in the same way that we sing our modern hymns and songs in church. Three out of ten Psalms are of lament, which means that they far outnumber any other type of songs in the Psalter. Walter Brueggemann says “There’s an enormous temptation for ‘high faith’ to deny the dark side of life when things do not work … against that common failure the psalms of lament make contact with the emotions of failure.”
The Bible is a very honest book. It deals with every aspect of life, from life through to death…and everything in between. The Bible teaches us that openness and honesty is the soil out of which we can grow true confidence and joy.
The ancient Israelites sang their songs of lament as worshipfully as they sang their hymns of praise. They were able to express their emotional struggles as part of their worship, knowing that God would not turn His face away from them. We will touch on both ‘personal lament’ (Psalm 51 & Psalm 130) and ‘communal lament’ (Psalm 137) today. God delights in our passionate engagement with Him, and what He longs for is that all His children be real.
Our congregation wants to be a real community of faith that lives out the vision to be: A loving church, focused on the Gospel of Christ:
- reaching out
- meeting needs
- equipping people for service
We can only do this well if we develop an attitude to worship that embraces all the complexities of the lives we live in relationship with the God who created us in His image and for His pleasure. The laments take us on a journey that always leaves us in no doubt that our times of suffering will be temporary, and the ultimate message of hope in the resurrection will move us back into praise and thanksgiving. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Him we can trust.
May Christ be your way, your truth and your life this week as you are reaching out, changing lives.
Rev. Brad Foote