For quite some time now, those who study liturgy have noted the deplorable lack of liturgical resources for the use of those who need to voice their lament before God. In the current issue of Liturgy, David Bjorlin analyzes the paucity of hymns of lament in three current denominational hymnals, and calls the church to provide what is lacking in our resources for congregational song.
If we as liturgists and hymn writers desire to provide pastoral care for those who grieve and bring ourselves fully to God in spirit and truth, if we desire people that will be agents of healing and hope, we must provide the liturgical resources for people to speak honestly to God not only in praise but in anger, not only in faith but in doubt. We must reclaim the heritage of the Psalms of lament and have the courage to delve into our own darkness and speak to God in all of this darkness’s doubt, anguish, and fear. For when we give voice to our deepest fears, when we express our unbridled anger, we discover a God who transforms our mourning into dancing and our sackcloth into garments of joy (Ps. 30:11). It is then we may even look in the face of death itself, even the most tragic and untimely, and find a true and earnest hope. Thanks be to God!
Have you ever tried writing a hymn of lament? If you have, how does your composition fare when judged by Bjorlin’s criteria concerning musical key, address to God, divine agency, and the honest expression of human anger?
David Bjorlin is a recent graduate of North Park Theological Seminary. He plans to do further graduate study in liturgics.
David Bjorlin (2012): "The Courage to Lament: An Analysis of Mainline Hymnody,"Liturgy, 27:1, 28-37