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From Protest to Praise

A "Psalm-Sing" Service

Our church can be described as a singing church. As part of our worship pattern, once a year we usually hold a hymn-sing, gathering to worship God specifically through song. This year our pastor preached a series of sermons based on various psalms, so instead of a hymn-sing we decided to hold a psalm-sing.

The service focused on three main types of psalms as outlined by Walter Brueggemann in The Psalms and the Life of Faith. Each section of the service began with a reading of the type of psalm highlighted in that section. Psalm readings were taken from the book Voicing God’s Psalms by Calvin Seerveld and are used here by permission.

We began by singing what Brueggemann calls “hymns of orientation”—hymns that celebrate the history of God’s redemptive work as Creator and Redeemer (i.e. Psalm 105), rather than what God has done for us in our personal history.

From there, we focused on laments, which Brueggemann calls “psalms of dis-orientation.” We do not always experience life as well-ordered or well-oriented. Lament gives us permission to let the tears flow—and shows us how.

Lament usually moves from plea to praise. The sermon for this service, “From Protest to Praise,” used the words of Psalm 13 as the text. In addition to singing three psalms of lament, the congregation was invited to meditate on the words of the gospel song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” which was played as the offering was taken.

The service ended with songs of thanksgiving, or “psalms of re-orientation,” expressing joy and gratitude for God’s deliverance. The time eventually comes when we look back at the troublesome days and say to God, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5) and “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing” (Ps. 30:11).

Since the service was held at the start of the Advent season, we ended it with the “Song of Mary/My Soul Proclaims with Wonder” and the spiritual “Soon and Very Soon,” which turned our hearts toward the celebration of Christmas and the hope of Christ’s return.

Prelude: “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” Larson

Call to Worship
All together now—applause for God!
Sing songs to the tune of his glory,
set glory to the rhythms of his praise.
Say of God, “We’ve never seen anything like him!”
Take a good look at God’s wonders—
they’ll take your breath away.
He converted sea to dry land;
travelers crossed the river on foot.
Now isn’t that cause for a song?
Bless our God, oh peoples!
—Psalm 66:1-3, 5-6, 8, The Message

Psalm 149: “Sing Praise to the Lord” PsH 149

God’s Greeting

Psalms of Orientation

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord all the way down from heaven
and all the way back!
Praise the Lord!
All angels—all God’s veteran angels praise the Lord!
Sun and moon, praise the Lord!
Every star alight, praise the Lord!
Endless end of the sky and hidden reach of the oceans,
praise the Lord!

They shall praise the name of the Lord
for the Lord commanded, and they were created.
God set them up forever.
God made them an ordinance which they do not overstep.

Praise the Lord, every crack in the earth!
All you dragons, whirlpools, and burning fires,
hail, snow, and smoke,
wind wedded to the storm blowing where God speaks,
you mountain and little hills everywhere,
fruit trees and all cedars,
all wild animals, all animals near the house,
you snakes and birds on the wing:

Praise the name of the Lord!

Rulers and judges on the earth, every nation,
you young fellows, you young women,
the older ones with gray in the hair, and any children:
let them praise the name of our God,
because only God’s name is to be praised.
God’s glory soars beyond earth and heaven itself.

The Lord God will shoulder the weakness of God’s people.
And the Lord shall shore up praise
for all God’s lowly faithful ones,
for the sons and daughters of Israel,
the folk that stay close to the Lord.

Hallelujah!
—Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms

Psalm 104: “Your Spirit, O Lord, Makes Life to Abound” PsH 104

Psalm 148: “Praise the Lord, Sing Hallelujah” PsH 188, refrain after stanza 3

Psalm 8: “Lord, Our Lord, Your Glorious Name” PsH 8 stanzas 1, 4, 5

Lament: Psalms of Dis-orientation

Psalm 13
How long, Lord God, how long
will you keep on forgetting me! Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I always be second-guessing such things
deep inside myself,
and have worrisome pain in my gut all day long?
How long will my enemy have me in its triumphant power?

Take a good look, O Lord, my God,
please hear me with an answer!
Keep my eyes bright with life
lest death itself put me to sleep,
and my enemies roll in the aisles
when they see me about to break down—

But I still sense I am safe in your covenantal love,
My deepest heart rejoices
in your always coming through to the rescue.
I will sing to the Lord!
Yes, the Lord has always helped me
grow more sure of God’s enduring love.

—Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms

Meditation: “From Protest to Praise” (Psalm 13)

Psalm 42: “As a Deer in Want of Water” PsH 42

Psalm 63: “O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly” PsH 63

Psalm 130: “Out of the Depths I Cry” PsH 256

Prayers of God’s People

Offering

Offertory: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” arr. Schrader

Thanksgiving: Psalms of Re-orientation

Psalm 116:1-8, 12-14, 17-18
I love the Lord because God hears me when I cry and pray,
Yes, God bent God’s ear down to me,
and I’ll talk about it the rest of my life!
I was caught in a dead end.
The cramp of the grave had a hold on me;
pain and trouble kept hurting.
So I called out loud on the name of the Lord:
Lord God, please! Get me out—save my life!

Full of mercy is the Lord God, just—yes—
but our God spills compassion over!
The Lord God takes loving care of those open to temptation—
when I was cut down to size, God took care of me—
so calm down, fellow; the Lord has given you what was good!

That’s so.
You got me out of the dead end.
You have stopped my eyes from filling with tears!
You have kept me from walking into ruin—Yes!

What shall I give the Lord God?
So many lovely surprises God has given me.
I know, I shall toast the Lord with the cup of victory—
Cheers for the Lord God!
I will do what I vowed the Lord God I would too,
and I’ll do it right among God’s people.

Yes, I will really offer thanksgiving to you:
Cheers for the Lord God!
I mean it, I will do what I vowed to God,
and I’ll do it among the faithful,
near the house of the Lord God,
right in the middle of Jerusalem—
Glory, Hallelujah!

—Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms

Psalm 48: “Great Is the Lord Our God” PsH 48

Psalm 136: “Give Thanks to God, for Good Is He” PsH 182

Luke 1:46-55: “Song of Mary/My Soul Proclaims with Wonder” SNC 102

Closing Song: “Soon and Very Soon” SNC 106

God’s Blessing

Doxology: “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” PsH 637

Postlude: “Soon and Very Soon,” arr. Schrader