With a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,
as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls,
or with tens of thousands of fat lambs;
such may our sacrifice be in your sight today,
and may we unreservedly follow you,
for no shame will come to those who trust in you.
(Daniel 3:39-40, NRSV, Catholic Edition)
Today we look at Paragraph 16 of "Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony.” Paragraph 16 considers the pervasiveness of sin.
[Among many passages, see Psalm 14 and 53, Amos 1-2, Romans 1:28-32, and Galatians 5:19-21.]
As we considered in the April 1 “Elbow Bump,” quoting from an article by N.T. Wright, the proper posture for a global pandemic is lament for a broken world. One of the things I have valued since coming to the Christian Reformed Church is learning about lament worship. There were few voices in my past worship experience which called us to lament, so the opportunities to lament together before God were rare.
At this year's Calvin Worship Symposium, I was introduced to a modern Christian songwriter named Wendall Kimbrough, who is doing good work scoring Psalms and lament for worship. I recall, as he led Symposium attendees through an evening of lament from the Psalms, finding it at the time to be quite inappropriate; however, just a few weeks later, COVID-19 hit, and the timeliness of what he taught us was suddenly indeed evident. Take a moment and hear his lament taken from Ps. 83, “O God, Do Not Be Silent,” our song for today.
Lament is especially important when we consider the burden of sin, as Paragraph 16 calls us to do. There are many passages in the Bible which call us to lament over the pervasiveness of sin. Many of the psalms, for example, are psalms of lament, either personal (for example, Psalm 88) or corporate (for example, Psalm 89).
Taking on the sins of the whole world is just a bit much for most of us (to put it mildly), so you may be called to lament for something more local, such as your neighbourhood. You may find this article by Diana Gruver, Praying Lament Psalms (and How to Write Your Own) useful in this regard.
The goal of lament is to be open and honest with God so we can turn to him as our only Saviour, and from there to be brought to a posture of repentance, and “a place of hope.”
Another important realization, brought out in several of the Scriptures provided for Paragraph 16, is the sad reality that the consequences of sin's pervasiveness fall disproportionately on the poor (for example, Psalm 14:6). To me, this is one of the main lessons of this pandemic - how all that is wrong in this world hits the poor with special terror. Surely this is a reason for us to lament both this virus, and the pervasiveness of sin.
Let’s pray: “God, the world is sick! Sin, like the COVID virus, is present everywhere. Even worse, we live in a world that works hard to stop the virus, but ignores the sin problem and denies you. We have become victims of our own sin. We need you desperately. Please bring this world to call upon you in repentance, and turn humble hearts to you. Please heal our sick world, and lift the poor from harm’s way. For your name is great, Yahweh of hosts, and you are worthy of our praise, so we call on you!”
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Go with this blessing:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
PS – My online office hours on Friday are 1-2pm. Drop in if you'd like to chat, or just say hi! Don’t forget, online prayer is Friday from 11am-noon. If you would like to be prayed for, you are welcome to join via Zoom or phone.