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.

Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder

The new song for July and August in the 8:30 and 9:45 services at Central Presbyterian Church is “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder.”  The author of the hymn text is John Newton, the 18th-century English pastor and hymn writer who is most well known for writing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace.”

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Seeing the Story

Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri, has three stained glass windows in the balcony overlooking the sanctuary that portray Jesus surrounded by several of his apostles.  On Sunday mornings, the rising sun streams through these remarkably colorful windows, and there we behold key parts of the biblical story in visual symbol.  The image of the risen, ascended Jesus crowned in heavenly glory and surrounded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul reminds us that Jesus is the living Lord who is present with us by his Spirit to lead us in worship and that we always worship together with the whole company of saints in heaven who surround us as a great cloud of witnesses.

You can find a link to a brochure that provides a description of these beautiful windows and a commentary on their biblical symbols and meaning on the right hand side of the Worship Is Central home page under “Links.”  Or you can click here to see it.

Lenten Devotional

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City is offering free devotional materials for individuals, families, and/or small groups to use during the season of Lent (February 13-March 30, 2013).  The devotionals are emailed directly to you each Sunday in Lent.  If you are interested, you can register here. (You will first have to hit the “Find Profile” button to complete the registration process).