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Trumpets, Tears and Ashes

A Series on Habakkuk

Nicholas Wolterstorff says that Christian worship, like the Old Testament psalter, should include trumpets, tears, and ashes—that is, praise, lament and repentance. All too often, however, tears and ashes are absent from Christian preaching and worship.

A few years ago, I preached a Lenten sermon series on the book of Habakkuk, a book that includes trumpets, tears, and ashes. A few honest souls admitted being unaware of Habakkuk’s existence among the Old Testament’s minor prophets. Many were surprised at Habakkuk’s relevance for today. Several said that Habakkuk asks their questions.

Each of the first four weeks the congregation responded to the Scripture reading with “You Are My Hiding Place” LUYH 412, PFAS 32B, SNC 180 accompanied by the plaintive strains of a violin. As they sang, a large rock with the sermon title painted on it was brought to the front of the sanctuary and set beside the pulpit on a small table draped with black cloth. On the fifth Sunday, a soloist sang Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in This Storm” as the rock was carried in. As the series progressed, the rocks accumulated on the table.

In all but the fourth week, a testimony that strengthened the connection between Habakkuk’s questions and our own introduced the sermon. The first three weeks reflect tears; week four, ashes; and week five, trumpets.

The sermon series on Habakkuk ran the first five Sundays of Lent. On Palm/Passion Sunday and throughout Holy Week, sermons focused on the historical events in the life of Jesus commemorated on those days.

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
How Long?

We Gather to Worship God

Choral Anthem: “The Lord Is My Shepherd” Allen Pote

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greeting

Worship Song: “From the Inside Out” Joel Houston

We Are Renewed in God’s Grace

Sacrament of Holy Baptism

Song of Response: “Tell Your Children” LUYH 314, PsH 588

We Listen to God’s Word

Children’s Message

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 1:1–4

Response: “You Are My Hiding Place” LUYH 412, PFAS 32B, SNC 180

Testimony
A young woman spoke about her and her husband’s struggle with infertility and miscarriage.

Message: “How Long?”
Habakkuk is a bit of a strange book. While it is introduced as a prophecy or oracle, the book contains no explicit message to Israel from God. Instead it recounts a conversation between the prophet and God. The conversation begins with lament. Where the law is paralyzed, where sin has infected the world, there is no justice; there is no shalom, no peace, no wholeness, no flourishing, no delight. Habakkuk’s prayer is the prayer of those who fervently pray for peace, only to experience war; those who pray for healing beside a loved one’s sickbed, only to be confronted by death; those who pray for a spouse’s love to be renewed, only to experience betrayal and abuse. Habakkuk’s prayer is our prayer.

Song of Response: “How Long, O Lord, Will You Forget Me” PFAS 13C

We Are Fed at God’s Table

Sacrament of Holy Communion

Song: “You Are My King (Amazing Love)” LUYH 360

Morning Offering

We Depart to Serve God

God’s Blessing

Response: “Blessed Be Your Name” LUYH 343

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
Why?

We Gather to Worship God

Call to Worship
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice,
the psalmist said.
In the morning, I wait in expectation.
We have come
to seek God in the morning,
to be blessed by God, as we worship today (adapted from Psalm 5:3).

Response: “O God, You Are My God LUYH 743, SNC 17, WR 494, GtG 743

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greeting

Worship Song: “As the Deer” LUYH 503, PFAS 42D, WR 471, GtG 626

We Lift Up Our Lament to God

Lament Prayer: The Worship Sourcebook J.2.3.1, p. 574

Response: “Be Still and Know” LUYH 907, SWM 1, WR 450

We Listen to God’s Word

Children’s Message

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 1:5–17

Response: “You Are My Hiding Place” LUYH 412, PFAS 32B, SNC 180

Testimony
A middle-aged woman reflected on her son’s stillbirth thirty years ago and the unanswered question that remains: Why?

Message: “Why?”
Why doesn’t God act more like God? Habakkuk knows that God is holy, righteous, and good. God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil, yet God is silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves. Why? If God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, why was our son stillborn? If God does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance, why does our daughter still resist and reject God? If God hates divorce, why does God tolerate my spouse’s ridicule and rejection of me? Again, Habakkuk’s question is our question.

Song of Response “How Long, O Lord, Will You Forget Me” PFAS 13C

We Respond with Prayers and Offerings

Prayers of the People

Morning Offering

Closing Song: “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” The Christian Life Hymnal 7

We Depart to Serve God

God’s Blessing

Response: “Blessed Be Your Name” LUYH 343

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
When?

We Gather to Worship God

Call to Worship
During this Lenten season, we bring to God
all our sorrow and sadness,
our burdens symbolized by these rocks.
We bring them at God’s gracious invitation,
for God is our comforter.

Gathering Song: “Come to Me” Dan Adler, Maureen Pranghofer

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greeting

Worship Song: “Hope of the Nations” Brian Doerksen

Service of Confession

Call to Confession
If we confess our sins,
God is faithful.
If we confess our sins,
God is just.
If we confess our sins,
God will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all that is not right
(based on 1 John 1:9).

Prayer of Confession
Confident in God’s grace to forgive, let us confess our sins together:
Gracious God,
our sins are too heavy to carry,
too real to hide,
too deep to undo.
Forgive us, we pray.
When we fall down, lift us up.
And be our anchor, through all the storms of life.
We call out to you,
for you are faithful,
our rock of peace.

—adapted from The Worship Sourcebook 2.2.15, p. 91

Song of Response: “Faithful One” Singing the Faith 628

We Listen to God’s Word

Children’s Message

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 2:1–5

Response: “You Are My Hiding Place” LUYH 412, PFAS 32B, SNC 180

Testimony
A middle-aged woman spoke about watching her elderly mother’s health decline and about her bedridden mother’s testimony: “The next time I walk, I’ll walk with Jesus!”

Message: “Wait for It”
When asked how he tries to reconcile his faith in God with the untold misery in the world, Lewis Smedes said that when he prays, he no longer asks “why”; he asks “when”: “When are you going to come and set things right?” Smedes’s comment reflects Habakkuk’s faith. Because God cannot tolerate wrongdoing, because God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil, Habakkuk knows that evil cannot finally triumph over God’s people. That’s why he stations himself on the ramparts. He is looking for the salvation God will bring. So are we. Though it lingers, it will certainly come. With Habakkuk, we wait for it, and, with Smedes, the question “Why?” becomes “When?”.

We Respond with Prayers and Offerings

Prayers of the People

Morning Offering

We Depart to Serve God

God’s Blessing

Response: “Find Us Faithful” WR 497

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Woe!

We Gather to Worship God

Call to Worship: Habakkuk 2:20

Silent Prayer

Opening Song: “God Himself Is with Us” LUYH 565, PsH 244, TH 382

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greeting

Worship Song: “Cry of My Heart” SNC 81

Opening Prayer
O God,
We want to follow you;
we want to be close to you.
Teach us your holy ways as we worship you this day,
that we might walk in your truth.
Open our eyes as we worship you this day,
that we might see the wonderful things you do,
the wonderful things you have done
in Jesus Christ, our precious redeemer and friend.

Worship Song: “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” The Christian Life Hymnal 7

We Listen to God’s Word

Children’s Message

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture: Habakkuk 2:6–20

Response: “You Are My Hiding Place” LUYH 412, PFAS 32B, SNC 180

Message: “Woe!”
Habakkuk does not specify the people against whom these words of woe are spoken. While it may be more comfortable for us to think that they are spoken against the Babylonians—that is, other people—we do well to reflect on our own complicity in the sins Habakkuk names. His first and second woes denounce sins against the eighth commandment; his third, sins against the sixth commandment; and his fourth, sins against the seventh commandment. Contemporary parallels can easily be found for each offense. Like God’s law, Habakkuk’s woes can be a teacher of sin that lead us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Response
The congregation responds to the sermon with the litany of penitence from the Ash Wednesday liturgy. Language from the litany that reflects ways we are complicit in the sins Habakkuk names was used in the sermon in anticipation of the congregation’s response.

Let us pray.
Holy and merciful God,
we confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We have not listened to your call to serve as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We confess to you, O God, all our past unfaithfulness:
The pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our lives,

we confess to you, O God.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways
and our exploitation of other people,

we confess to you, O God.

Our anger at our own frustration
and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

we confess to you, O God.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,
and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

we confess to you, O God.

Our negligence in prayer and worship,
and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

we confess to you, O God.

Accept our repentance, O God,
for the wrongs we have done.
For our neglect of human need and suffering
and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

accept our repentance, O God.

For all false judgments,
for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,
and for our prejudice and contempt
toward those who differ from us,

accept our repentance, O God.

For our waste and pollution of your creation
and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

accept our repentance, O God.

Restore us, O God,
and let your anger depart from us.

Favorably hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.
Text taken from The Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal Church US 1979). Used by permission.

Song of Response: “Refiner’s Fire” WR 374

We Respond with Prayers and Offerings

Prayers of the People

Morning Offering

Choral Anthem: “Amazing Love, How Can It Be” Mary McDonald

We Depart to Serve God

God’s Blessing

Closing Song: “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” PsH 156, SNC 291, WR 749

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Yet!

We Gather to Worship God

Call to Worship
Let us worship God, who has done great things.
We rejoice in our God, who made a way
through the desert of this world.

Let us worship God, who has caused streams of mercy
to flow in the wasteland.
We are the people God has formed through Christ;
we worship him, and we rejoice!

Let us worship God in spirit and in truth.
We praise God for the grace that has saved us.
Alleluia! We rejoice!

—The Worship Sourcebook J.1.2.1, p. 559, based on Isaiah 43:19–21, Reformed Worship 34:20

Song of Response: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” LUYH 521, PH 356, PsH 486, TH 457, WR 68, GtG 475

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greeting

Worship Song: “You Are My All In All SWM 183, WR 427

We Listen to God’s Word

Children’s Message

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 3:1–19

Ministry of Music: “Praise You in This Storm” Casting Crowns

Testimony
A teacher spoke about how giving a graduation address caused her to reflect on her own life journey: her parents’ divorce, an absent parent, an empty womb. She testified to the power of the perspective of Habakkuk 3:17–19: Yet!

Message: “Yet I Will Rejoice”
Recalling the mighty deeds of God renews and strengthens Habakkuk’s faith. As God has saved God’s people in the past, so God will save them in the future. That’s why Habakkuk waits patiently and, though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, he still rejoices in God his Savior. And so do we, especially in the light of God’s mighty deeds in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Song of Response: “Trading My Sorrows” Darrell Evans

We Respond with Prayers and Offerings

Prayers of the People

Morning Offertory

Worship Song: “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” LUYH 581, PH 464, WR 59, GtG 611

We Depart to Serve God

God’s Blessing

Response: “Rejoice, the Lord Is King” LUYH 224, PH 155, PsH 408, SWM 140, TH 309/310, WR 342, GtG 363