This week, the Narrative Lectionary summer Psalm series brings us to Psalm 13. This psalm is a song of lament, from a time when the psalmist was in a difficult situation, a time of pain, sorrow, and the feeling of abandonment. One of the beautiful things about the Psalms, and the Bible in general, is that the entire range of human emotions and experiences are present.
In corporate worship, we so often focus on the positive emotions. After all, praise and thanksgiving are key elements of worship and they are definitely happy. However, it is important to acknowledge the dark times in our lives as well. God is not only present in our “highs” but also our “lows.”
Sadly, everyone encounters some sort of trouble in their lives. It’s important to teach and remind each other that these times can be opportunities for faith formation. God guided the forebears of our faith to the faith practice of lament when they experienced loss, suffering, and sadness. We practice lament when we complain to God about all we are upset about. We bring all of the injustice, suffering, and pain in the larger world or our own world before God in tears and angry shouts. We dump the wreckage of life, hope, and love at God’s feet and cry or wail or scream or sit in stunned silence.
Many of us did not grow up thinking it was appropriate to yell, complain, or despair before God. We could ask for God’s help, but leave the negative emotions buried inside. So, how is lament a faith formation practice?
- Lament is a biblical practice. Besides Psalm 13, there are many other passages, psalms, and even a whole book of the Bible of lament. Our ancestors of the faith not only believed it was appropriate to lament, but also that these laments were inspired enough to make it into our canon of Scripture.
- God loves all of us. Not only does God love each and every person, but God also loves each and every part of you and me. God loves us when we are suffering or angry just as much as God loves us when we are joyful or at peace. We cannot love God with our whole selves if we only show God our Sunday best.
- Lament is prayer. Lament may be an unusual type of prayer, but it is still keeping the lines of communication open to God. God knows everything about us, so we are not going to surprise or offend God. God’s love is big enough to encompass the whole of our human experience. When we cannot handle our suffering, God can handle it all. Lament is an act of faith.
What can you do as a faith formation leader? A lot of bad stuff happens in our world, our country, our families, and our lives. You can teach those who will listen (even kids!) what lament is and that it is a perfectly faithful thing to do.
Perhaps this week you can provide worshippers (or other faith formation participants) with paper and pens or pencils and invite them to take some private time to write or draw their own laments from a time of darkness in their lives. This can be a private exercise where people take their laments home with them, or you can offer a means for those who wish to share may do so, reading them out loud or creating a temporary “wall of lament”. Most will probably not want to share, especially those currently undergoing a dark time.
Of course, in addition to this opportunity to guide worshippers in the practice of lament, Sunday, June 18th is also Father’s Day. As a father myself, I would request that congregations consider mirroring what they do for Mother’s Day. Both days are important, but it is also very important that they both be treated with sensitivity as well as celebration. Some families have fathers, some do not. Some fathers have a positive impact on their families, some have a negative impact. And there are some who desperately wish to be fathers, but that opportunity is denied to them for any number of reasons. However, celebrating Mother’s Day and not Father’s Day makes fathers who do make the effort with their families feel like second-class parents, and that’s not something the church should do.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
This week’s FREE resource is our Narrative Lectionary Planning Tool, a PDF document that contains a table of every 2017-2018 Narrative Lectionary reading by date (9/10/2017 to 5/20/2018), including other important festivals and holidays nearby. This resource is intended for use by preachers, worship leaders, Christian education directors, and any other faith formation leaders in your congregation. Each reading has its own page that allows the faith formation leader or team to plan and coordinate their faith formation experiences. Each reading includes a story title, story summary, accompanying text citation, as well as the multi-week themes used in Living the Word products, which can be used to create a sermon series or similar.