Lament as a Spiritual Discipline

By Michele Sigg.—
The Spirit of God has been at work in our community in the past several months, stirring in our hearts a searching desire for repentance from our collective sin of systemic racism and from our individual blindness to the suffering this enduring cancer causes in our society. Our awakening at St. John’s came even before George Floyd’s death as the result of what several of us learned about a revival in Fiji. As one of the signs on our lawn now proclaims, we wish to be a community that obeys this biblical injunction:

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (abbreviated)

As we become aware of our “unknown sins” (a petition in one of the BCP prayers of confession), one very important truth breaks into the light of our newfound desire to be obedient to Jesus’ call to us: the truth that the work of racial justice, healing, and reconciliation is not optional for his followers, it is a way of living, thinking, and being in the body of Christ. His body, one body. This is what John Hare meant in his sermon several weeks ago when he said he now had to recalibrate his life in light of this calling.

To continue to seek God’s face and confront our sin, it is important that we engage in what may be, for some of us, a new spiritual discipline: lament. This is an exercise in which we seek to develop an intentional awareness of the ills (sins, offenses) in our society, in the church, or in our own hearts, reflect on them biblically, think of ways to bring healing, and pray for God’s help and forgiveness.

Lament as a spiritual discipline will be an exercise in awareness of what is going on around us and who is suffering, offering us opportunities to pray, reflect, and act. This is the first action in the work of reconciliation.

To offer a place for our collective lament, we have created a new thematic stream (category) of Lament on the blog. Our goal is to post one lament per week, on Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion, which is traditionally a day of lament, mourning, and grief. But let us not forget that Christ’s death is only the first part of Christological lament. As Jesus’s death was followed by his resurrection, so also is Christological lament followed by the hope of new life, in the form of justice, healing, and reconciliation.

Instructions for writers: We encourage brief reflections. Try to keep each section to 200 words or less, if possible (this is not set in stone). The liturgical format of each post will be as follows:

CHALLENGE (Becoming aware): Present a problem related to racial justice (eg news event, enduring issue in the church or in myself)–that is something you feel Christians need to know about. This can be a brief report on recent news, a short video, or your own testimony (confession, something you have learned). It can also be simply an image or a recording: art, photography, music, a performance that expresses or invites lament.
REFLECTION (What does God say about this?): Reflect on it from a spiritual and biblical perspective, using a short passage from Scripture.
ACTION (What is God calling me to do?): Offer ideas of what can be done, what YOU might do
PRAYER (Asking for God’s help and mercy): Compose a prayer or offer one from a prayer book
SCRIPTURE for the road (Writing these things on my heart): Offer a take away Scripture verse/passage. It could be the one you used in your reflection.

Shancia will start us off with the first of these posts this week. Her post follows up on the topic of the last session of our Seeking Racial Justice series: that of racial injustice in housing and zoning. I invite any who feel called to write a lament from what God may be showing them at this time.

Below is a sung lament for our times.


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