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Content about Laments

June 1, 2010

My quest to understand the psalms of lament began in the midst of a deep period of depression. I had spent a wonderfully rich two months in Ethiopia, recording Christian Somali music for broadcast from Ethiopia over Somalia. During my time there I received numerous “prophetic words” that doors would open for me when I returned to Canada. But within a few short months of my return I was unemployed and living in the basement of a friend’s parent’s house. My familial home had burned down and a friend of mine had committed suicide.

September 1, 2009

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.

June 1, 2007

Help me out, Lord.

Out of resentment.
Help me see the beam in my eye, not the splinter in my brother’s eye.
Help me see the beam on which the Savior died for me.

March 1, 2007

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know we’re not always in the “right” frame of mind to plan or lead worship. Much as we might hate to admit it, outside factors do affect our view of worship at a Tuesday night planning meeting or a Sunday morning service. We may be struggling with financial issues, grieving the loss of a friend, or dealing with a family member’s difficult illness. Or we may just be tired and crabby after a long day or a traffic jam.

September 5, 2005

John D. Witvliet prepared this prayer for his ordination service into the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Christian Reformed Church.

This prayer is based on the ancient “O Antiphons” that are also the basis for the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (see also p. 38). The elipses (. . .) are places for possible extemporaneous additions.

June 4, 2004

Soon after September 11, 2001, I received requests from various congregations throughout the United States for permission to sing from “A Congregational Lament” in worship services. They needed a song to fit the evil besetting them. They wanted to mourn the terrible loss of life and to cry out to God for the Lord to lessen their pain somehow in what seemed so brutally destructive. As believers they wanted to sing a sad song of faith that did not pretend in Stoic fashion to take on the chin whatever happens.

December 1, 1997

Planning worship for Good Friday is a challenging pastoral and theological task. How do we begin to acknowledge the power and the mystery of the cross of Jesus Christ? How do we proclaim, even on Good Friday, that Christ is crucified and risen? What emotions are appropriate to express? Do we rejoice or do we weep?

Three Typical Approaches to Good Friday

A quick study of thirty or more printed orders of service in my files suggests that most Good Friday services feature one of three strategies.

September 1, 1997

Lament is a sign of both honest faith and resolute hope. When we worship together, we bring with us our experience in the world, from our most profound joys to our most painful sorrows. Like the Old Testament psalms, thoughtful liturgy allows us to express the whole range of our experience in ways that are fitting to the message of the gospel.

June 1, 1997

John D. Witvliet has been appointed assistant professor of worship and music at Calvin College and adjunct professor of worship at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two future articles will explore the way in which lament can function in the ebb and flow of weekly worship, apart from times of crisis.

June 1, 1997
WE APPROACH GOD IN GRIEF AND SORROW

Prelude: "Duet No. 2 in F Major," Beethoven unaccompanied flute and bassoon

The Call to Worship

Hymn: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" PsH 460, PH 263, RL 7, TH 38

stanzas 1-3

Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?

Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
December 1, 1993

In spite of their poignancy and availability, the lament psalms are not much used. If you look in the back of the hymnals of most major Protestant denominations, you will find perhaps Psalm 1, then skip to 8 and 19 and perhaps 22. Even when lament psalms are included, they are not sung much. In Roman Catholic and liberal Protestant usage, most of the lament psalms simply do not exist. (Anglicans use the lament psalms, but set them to such wonderful music that you don't notice what is being said!)