Lent 2015: A Season of Lament

During the season of Lent in 2015, we will highlight the way that Jesus’ suffering calls us to the practice of lament.

What is lament?  Lament is a vital Christian form of prayer that brings to God our pain, grief, and outrage at the world’s evil, suffering, and injustice.  Lament is a painful protest, a cry to God to hear and to deliver, and a profession of praise and trust in God’s presence and power to save.  A large percentage of the prayers of the Bible (especially in the book of Psalms) include lament, which teaches us not to flee from suffering but rather to face it and bring it to God and thus to find the comfort and hope that only he can give. For more help in understanding and practicing lament, see the list of resources here.

Why lament in Lent?  This is especially appropriate for the season of Lent, since Jesus’ ministry of self-sacrificial service naturally highlights sin in our lives that needs to be named, lamented, and put to death.  Jesus’ suffering also helps us see the effects of suffering caused by sin’s curse that Jesus lamented and bore for us and that he calls us to lament and bear as well. This series also follows from and reinforces the prior season and sermon series on Jesus’ care expressed in evangelism and outreach.  First, lament teaches us to see, name, and feel the suffering of others, and so it teaches empathy in the process.  This reinforces the outward-facing posture that Jesus models and calls us to adopt toward the world.  Second, lament provides an indirect apologetic and a sort of bridge-building experience because it demonstrates to non-Christians (and to Christians, too!) that trusting and following Christ is not an attempt to escape from hard realities of the world but rather leads us to acknowledge suffering and evil directly, and it also reveals the logic and fittingness of God’s solution to the world’s suffering and evil in Christ.

Why now?  In addition to all the usual kinds of suffering we all experience, Central Presbyterian Church has experienced much loss and pain in the recent past.  Furthermore, we live in a city that has been endured a lot of trauma following the shootings and protests in Ferguson and elsewhere in the last six months.  Lament will teach and equip us to respond to grief and suffering in the way that God himself directs in his word.

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Bible Memorization (It’s Not Just for Kids!)

It is hard to overstate the importance of committing verses and passages from Bible word to memory.  Transforming our mind is an essential aspect and engine of spiritual growth, and storing God’s word in our mind can be a powerful means by which God reshapes our thinking.  Thus, the psalms writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).  It is so fundamental to following Christ that Dallas Willard, a Christian philosopher and esteemed writer on spiritual formation, once said,

If I had to—and of course I don’t have to—choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life and take only one, I would choose Bible memorization. . . .because Bible memorization is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what they need.

If you would like some practical motivation and help in starting (or returning to) this life-changing spiritual discipline, you can find many resources to help you here.