Preaching Connection: Lament

Reading for Preaching

“Concerning Lament”

Salter: the regular lament is a stylized complaint to God: it’s plaintive, it often acknowledges sin (as Lamentations does—“five difficult poems expressing sadness and anger”); it sometimes protests innocence (as Job does), and always or almost always has praise somewhere. Claus Westermann says that the point of the plaintive lament is to get around to...
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Additional content related to Lament

Psalm 25:1-10

If the Lectionary decided for whatever the reason to not recommend all of Psalm 25, they could have at least extended this to verse 11.  Since this is the reading for the First Sunday in Lent, you’d think the one verse of this psalm that is a straight up confession of sin would make the…

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Psalm 90:1-8 (9-11), 12

Psalm 90 is pegged in the superscription to be a psalm of Moses and though Moses’ having written this whole poem may be unlikely, there can be little doubt why this psalm has long been associated with Moses.  Like Moses himself and the people he led for 40+ years, this psalm is a little bit…

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Psalm 70

At Calvin Seminary for the past two academic years we have been holding a once-weekly Public Reading of Scripture where we gather for 30 minutes to read aloud a couple chapters each of an Old Testament passage, a Gospel passage, and a Psalm.  Not long ago Psalm 70 was read by a student and you…

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Psalm 43

Most scholars seem pretty certain that Psalms 42 and 43 were either originally just one psalm or that they are such tight companion psalms that you are not really supposed to read either of them in isolation from the other.   But here we are being asked to look at only Psalm 43.  A glance back…

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Psalm 80:7-15

Carving out only the middle section of Psalm 80 (as the Lectionary does) has several drawbacks, not least that if you only read those 9 verses, you miss the framing refrain of this poem as it occurs word-for-word in verses 3, 7, and 19: Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us,…

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Psalm 138

Years ago I read a wonderful novel by Indian writer Arundhati Roy and one of the things I liked about the book was its great title: The God of Small Things.  That title can be an apt summary for something you run across often in the psalms, including in Psalm 138. Israel praised their God…

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Romans 9:1-5

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Spirit did not inspire the Scriptures’ authors like Paul to insert periods, commas, semi-colons, paragraph breaks or chapter headings into what they wrote. Biblical punctuation is the product of the work of editors, not the Holy Spirit. Just before this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson opens, the apostle makes a…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Across its 52 verses, Psalm 89 covers a lot of ground.  You would not sense that from the mere 8 verses the Lectionary has carved out for this lection but if you range beyond those verses, you will see a lot going on.  There is praise and thanksgiving.  There is a nod to the more…

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Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

The Revised Common Lectionary is usually a straightforward affair when it comes to selected texts.  But with semi-regularity you get a text chopped up the way Psalm 69 is divided in this lection.  First we jump onto the already moving train only at verse 7, then we grab 4 verses, put 5 more in parentheses…

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Psalm 66:8-20

For reasons unknown the RCL has us skip the first 7 verses of Psalm 66.  Mostly they are lovely sentiments of praise and thanksgiving.  But as we pick up the action in verse 8, we see a curious conjunction of things.  On the one hand there is one of those global statements you often find…

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Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Across these past few highly unsettled and unsettling years around the world, Psalm 116 has provided thoughts that are at once inspirational and aspirational.  It is inspirational in its witness to God’s faithfulness in hearing our cries of distress from places of disorientation and even death.  It is aspirational in that—as in all times of…

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Psalm 31:9-16

Psalm 31:11 says “I am an object of dread to my neighbors; those who see me on the street flee from me.”  I suppose we all have our days when we feel like this but mostly we chalk it up to paranoia.  “I am just imagining that everyone I meet is averting their eyes.”  “It’s…

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Psalm 130

This poem is labeled a “Psalm of Ascent” but it starts as a Psalm of Descent.  It is called De Profundis in older Bibles—the Latin for “from the depths.”   When last this came up for the Lectionary Year A Fifth Sunday in Lent in 2020, the initial COVID lockdown was in its second week.  Some…

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Psalm 112:1-9 (10)

About all I can say after reading Psalm 112 is that it’s one thing to wear rose-colored glasses but quite another to fuse those glasses to your head so you can never take them off!  Psalm 112 is by no means the only poem in the Hebrew Psalter to paint a glowing portrait of what…

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Comments, Observations, and Questions A week before Christmas this year, the Lectionary via Psalm 80 takes us out of any setting we might ordinarily associate with the holidays and settles us instead into a very bleak landscape.  There can be no missing in Psalm 80—despite the Lectionary’s attempted leap-frog over the starker verses in the…

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Isaiah 7:10-16

Comments, Observations, and Questions As an inspired apostle and evangelist, Matthew may make any biblical connection he wishes and no one else can call him or question him on it.  He can unearth any nugget he wants from anywhere across the Hebrew Scriptures and if, having dug it out, Matthew then claims this verse was…

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Lamentations 1:1-6

Cheery this lection is not.  The New Testament sermon starter based on Luke 17 for this week is a bit of a challenging passage and so some preachers might be tempted to swap out this week’s Old Testament reading for the Gospel one but if so, then turning to this downbeat passage might make one…

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Psalm 37:1-9

The Book of Psalms—and sometimes individual poems within it—can be pretty good at the proverbial “talking out of both sides of one’s mouth at the same time.”  Taken individually, some psalms paint a very pretty picture of how the righteous always prosper and how the wicked always fail miserably.  Then again, other psalms admit that…

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Isaiah 5:1-7

As commentators note, Isaiah 5 begins with what looks like some light-hearted romantic ballad. A kind of troubadour opens this chapter by saying, “Listen up! I’m going to sing you a ballad about my beloved one–a song about the vineyard of our love!” It looks like a love song but quickly changes into a lament….

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Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

To get the full impact of Isaiah 1:10-20, you need to back up to verse 9 (left out regrettably by the Lectionary) in which the people of Israel say to themselves (in the wake of great desolation in their land) that with at least a few folks still living, they were not quite as bad…

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1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Sample sermon: When I go to different parts of the U.S. or Canada to speak or to preach, I often travel alone.  When I do, I sometimes enjoy going out to eat by myself at a restaurant.  It can be very interesting just to watch people and observe what is going on in ways you…

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Psalm 22:19-28

Ordinary Time is just beginning yet the Lectionary directs us to a sometimes difficult psalm.  Yes, we are being asked to consider only the hope-filled, praise-filled conclusion to this poem but it’s not as though we can forget its terrible opening set of verses.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” brings us…

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Psalm 80:1-7

If you are going to choose a Psalm of Lament for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, you may as well include the most Adventy and hopeful part of the Psalm!  But the RCL did not do that, choosing to break off the reading of Psalm 80 already at verse 7.  Had they gone on to…

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Ruth 1:1-18

To my mind stopping the reading of Ruth 1 at verse 18 is the narrative equivalent of ending the movie Field of Dreams just before the moment when Ray encounters his long-dead and estranged father on his magical Iowa baseball diamond.  Why stop short of the scene that brings the whole thing together!? So trust…

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Psalm 22:25-31

Let’s try a little thought experiment: imagine running across a long-ish narrative poem that began with something like, “The one I love torments me day and night, insults me in private and in public.  She has made me out to be a villain, and I rue the day I ever met her at times.  Who…

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John 2:13-22

We are impressed very often by all the wrong things.  In John 2 everyone was impressed with the physical Temple.  It had been undergoing construction for over four decades already and was not even finished.  It reminds me of the Ken Follett novel The Pillars of the Earth that narrates the construction of a European…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Most of what makes Psalm 89 such an interesting poem cannot be seen if you restrict yourself to just the verses that the Lectionary has carved out of the psalm’s full 52 verses.  Because this poem that begins in such an upbeat tone and with such a full-throated desire to sing praise to God for…

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Psalm 43

My Old Testament professor back when I was a seminary student and the Old Testament colleagues with whom I have taught the Psalms since becoming a member of the seminary faculty would not like the Lectionary’s choice of preaching on Psalm 43 alone.  The reason is obvious: it is all-but certain that what we now…

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Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Most of what makes Psalm 89 such an interesting poem cannot be seen if you restrict yourself to just the 8 verses the Lectionary has carved out of the psalm’s full 52 verses.  Because this poem that begins in such an upbeat tone and with such a full-throated desire to sing praise to God for…

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Psalm 66:8-20

What is this COVID-19 season for us?  A source of lament?  A time of testing?  Ten years from now, how will we look back on this time?  As one of the worst seasons of our lives that we are so amazingly glad is well behind us, or as a time for which we manage to…

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Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

This passage is part of an extended dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and his God, whose ways with God’s own people are a mystery to the prophet.  In the first 4 verses, the prophet passionately voices his complaint to God.  In 1:5-11, God answers that complaint with a truth that Habakkuk finds unbelievable.  So in…

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Psalm 37:1-9

The Book of Psalms—and sometimes individual poems within it—can be pretty good at the proverbial “talking out of both sides of one’s mouth at the same time.”  Taken individually, some psalms paint a very pretty picture of how the righteous always prosper and how the wicked always fail miserably.  Then again, other psalms admit that…

Explore

Psalm 22:19-28

Ordinary Time is just beginning in the early summertime of 2019 yet the Lectionary directs us to a sometimes difficult psalm.  Yes, we are being asked to consider only the hope-filled, praise-filled conclusion to this poem but it’s not as though we can forget its terrible opening set of verses.  “My God, my God, why…

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Psalm 138

Our prayer life should be our autobiography, C.S. Lewis once observed.  But that is also why Lewis thought the Hebrew Psalter was such a fitting prayer book since it contains prayers that fit a wide variety of life’s experiences.  Were the 150 Psalms all in one particular emotional register, what help would it be for…

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Psalm 80:1-7

If you are going to choose a Psalm of Lament for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, you may as well include the most Adventy and hopeful part of the Psalm!  But the RCL did not do that, choosing to break off the reading of Psalm 80 already at verse 7.  Had they gone on to…

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Job 23:1-9; 16-17

When we left Job last week, he was sitting in the ash heap, covered with nasty open sores, surrounded by three compassionately silent friends, quietly accepting the trouble the Lord had presumably sent into Job’s life.  Here, twenty chapters later, not much has changed in one sense.  Job is still in utter misery.  But in…

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Psalm 89:20-37

Before I dive into this difficult Psalm, I must get two preliminary comments out of the way, the first merely personal, the second deeply textual.  On a personal level, I must point you to a previous Sermon Commentary on this very text written just 7 months ago (see the Archive on this Center for Excellence…

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Isaiah 64:1-9

It’s always tempting for those who preach and teacher God’s Word to talk more about prayer than actually pray.  So those who proclaim Isaiah 64 won’t just want to explore, exegete and apply it carefully this week. We’ll also want to actually spend time praying, perhaps using its structure and themes to do so. The…

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Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

Psalm 69 is the cry of a person in extremis.  He uses the conventional language of drowning to describe his distress.  The Jews were a non-nautical people, so the thought of falling into deep water where there is no firm bottom provoked the deepest terror.  We can almost see the Psalmist flailing about as he…

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Lamentations 1:1-6

Cheery this lection is not. The New Testament sermon commentary based on Luke 17 for this week is a bit of a challenging passage and so as I noted in that article, some preachers might be tempted to swap out this week’s Old Testament reading for the Gospel one but if so, then turning to…

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Psalm 22:1-15

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament that expresses the poet’s anguish at his enemies’ relentless and ferocious attacks on him.  It contains the kind of honesty with God that 21st century Christians seem sometimes reluctant to express.  So how does such a lament fit into the season of…

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Psalm 89:20-37

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Most scholars suggest Psalm 89 is a psalm of lament.  Yet the poet devotes most of it to praising God for God’s faithfulness and celebrating God’s covenant with David and his descendants.  Even the segment toward which the lectionary directs our attention seems reluctant to highlight the lament aspect…

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Psalm 22:25-31

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Psalm 22 is poignant prayer of lament of a persecuted child of God.  It begins with the anguished cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Yet throughout much of the psalm, the psalmist prays as though she’s not entirely certain that God is even listening to…

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Psalm 22:23-31

Notes and Observations Christians who read this psalm, particularly during the season of Lent, can hardly do so without hearing Jesus’ groan as he dangles between heaven and earth on the cross.  After all, both Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 quote him as praying verse 1’s, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…

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