“I can’t relate to the Psalms!” It was notable to me that my friend who cares so deeply about injustice was having a hard time relating to the Psalms. There are so many Psalms that call out injustice and express passionate grief or sorrow about the state of things! But I get it. The dramatic language and imagery can seem distant or unrelatable to our modern day-to-day life. The more we talked about it, however, the closer it seemed. The more we worked it out together, the more we felt together.
I think the Psalms were written to do that. They were meant to be led and sung communally. They give words to the breadth of human experience and help us lament and praise together.
This past Sunday our congregation on West Tulpehocken was doing this together. We wrote our own psalms of lament, modeled after those we find in scripture. We named evils and heartache, described experiences of suffering, asking God to deliver. We practiced remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, vowing to give praise for what will be accomplished in the future.
Making space to lament together is important. But it doesn’t stop there. As powerful as it is to cry out to God, our prayers need to be embodied with action. Putting our feet to the pavement, our hands to work, our time and resources to resist and restore is as important as our prayers for change. Words alone aren’t enough. God wants to use us! When we work against the wrongs of this world, we are joining with God in the work of reconciliation and restoration of the whole world until it is fully realized.
A psalm of lament moves from complaint to a vow of praise, from grief and sorrow to God’s enduring faithfulness in what is yet to be fully revealed. There is movement there. There is a way to feel and to act together.
This week, as I joined many Circle of Hope friends to march with others in protest of the brutal treatment of undocumented immigrants and later against the environmental injustice of a SEPTA gas plant in Nicetown, I was grateful that together our lament is active, our prayers have feet and hands and voices. As followers of Jesus we do not turn away from overwhelming tragedy. We grieve, we cry out, we move together so that our tangible lament embodies a tangible hope that we are working to reveal.