“The Lament Psalms teach us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions. They allow us to shout out our forsakenness in the dark caverns of abandonment and then hear the echo return to us over and over until we bitterly recant of them, only to shout them out again. They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology the next”
~ Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home*

The Psalms of lament are not frequently highlighted in the Lectionary or in Sunday morning worship services. And yet, almost one third of the Psalms are laments. As you will hear from Walter Brueggemann in the included link, there is a cost to us personally and communally by excluding these lament Psalms from our communal hearing of Scripture.
In bypassing these sacred words of complaint to God we nurture a false sense of “everything-will-be-alright” or “everything-should-be-alright” when in fact reality teaches us that this is not so. If we don’t learn how to complain and despair together as church we will be ill equipped to  accept and navigate unfortunate circumstances when they come and, more so, we will be unable to thank and praise God amidst them.

Walter Brueggemann and the need for Lament

How long, oh Lord, will You allow humans to speak on Your behalf?
Why must fools slander Your Name, claiming that human works are the acts of God?

People grieve for their loved ones
The silence echoes through the ages, for the Lord has not changed.
From generation to generation, creation cries out against humankind’s plough,
While mothers weep and the oppressed are dragged to the grave
Caught in the cycles of life that are intertwined with the Lord’s plagues

I have grown weary of the love I bear,
once so easy to give, once flowing, now dashing me against the rocks
I want to let go, flee, cut myself off from the people, and be at rest.
I want to push forward, embrace, rejoin my disassembled community, and be at rest.

The Lord is just; the Earth is His, and everything in it.
He has not changed; blessings and curses fall alike
on the righteous and the wicked.
This I know, but why, O Lord, have You allowed the foolish to speak for you?

Why is your Name invoked to oppress the needy, the sick, and the majority?
Why do fools run freely across Your Earth, proclaiming that the Lord
has healed, protected, and blessed them;
they rob the righteous and consume their food and medicine,
seize babies from their mothers’ breasts,
profit from the murder of the distant innocent,
expose their communities to plague while they revel in their churches,
and proclaim, “I am blessed, I am blessed, the Lord has made it so!”

Arise, O Lord
Dash them to the ground and humble them,
Trample our leaders under Your heel and expose our institutions
Feed the hungry, defend the innocent, provide for the oppressed
Be unjust, O Lord, and intervene!
Balance the scales, silence Your followers who feed on the fat of the world
and have set the Earth on fire.
I hate them, I hate them
I hate us

But the Lord loves us
He harkens to the cries of every generation
From the time of Abel, He has listened to the Earth’s screams
as innocent blood soaks its soils.
The Lord listens, the Lord hears, the Lord knows.
Hear, O Lord, and answer me, in Your silence and Your abiding love.

Every generation, the Lord is present
He overturns the oppressor, and crushes the hands of the mighty
He consumes our cities
and exposes our lies to the next generation
The Lord does not stand idly by and leave us to our own destruction
In His abiding love, He stands with the righteous,
Instructs the foolish, reforms the wicked, and walks beside the lost.

The Lord is present in His silence
The Lord is sovereign in his creation
The Earth is balanced by His will
for He is merciful and abundant in love.
~ Kayla Quiring

* Foster, Richard J. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. 1992.

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