Preparing for the Third Sunday after Pentecost: Three Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Old Testament: 1 Kings 22:29-40, 51-53
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 13:5-10
Psalter: Psalm 16
Old Testament: Leviticus 9:22—10:11
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 13:5-10
Creator God, you call us to love and serve you with body, mind, and spirit through loving your creation and our sisters and brothers. Open our hearts in compassion and receive these petitions on behalf of the needs of the church and the world.
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted (Psalm 77:1-2).
from Third Church
Psalm 77 is among the group of Psalms that are called “Psalms of Lament.” Lament is not a practice that modern Americans are very familiar with. We believe in the “pursuit of happiness.” We pride ourselves in being able to find a solution to every problem. We are uncomfortable with suffering and pain. So when someone does experience tragedy, loss, or sorrow, few outlets are available for us other than medication or private therapy. There is definitely not a space to express our experiences of desolation in public, especially not in worship! Tragically, for many people the church is the last place they would want to be honest about their pain.
The ancients were wiser than we are when it comes to suffering, and much of that is because of the practice of lament. Lament is a form of prayer that stares suffering and pain in the face and does not seek a solution. It is courageous enough to see the terrible brokenness of our sin-scarred world and just simply grieve it. The Psalms of Lament not only grieve the brokenness of the world, but speak directly to the only One who can do anything about it-- God himself. The Psalms of Lament give permission to shake our fist at God, ask hard questions, and wonder why. Many suffering people have testified that they have found language for their own sorrow in the Psalms of Lament.
Of course, like all the Psalms, the ultimate point is not simply self-expression. The fact that the Psalms of Lament speak directly to God is the key to where the hope lies-- that there is a God, that his ways are mysterious, and the plot-line of his salvation is moving forward. Psalm 77 in particular looks back to the great acts of salvation that God has wrought, and in them finds hope for God’s ongoing acts of grace and faithfulness. For us New Testament Christians, the acts of salvation are even mightier and the hope is even stronger, because the same Savior who triumphed over death is now alive in us.
As you prepare this week for worship, read a few Psalms of Lament- try 3, 6, 13, 28, 56 or 142. Put the Psalms in your own words. Perhaps reflect or journal on something painful and unresolved in your own life. And then bring that experience to our worship together this week, knowing that God invites you to speak plainly to Him about your pain and that He promises to answer with hope.
Check out Third Church’s Website here.