A Space for Lament

Making Space for Lament

This week in churches across the world, millions of foreheads will be marked with ashes. This signifies the dust of our common origin and end. It also marks the beginning of Lent; a season in the church calendar devoted to lament. Why lament and ritual? Many may wonder if all of this is out-of-step with a life of fullness and freedom.

The truth is that modern life makes little space for lament. Yet we still experience loss. There are plenty of losses to be grieved: loved ones die, dreams fail to pan out, marriages end, bodies wear out, we work and we toil and yet the ends don’t seem to match the means.  

The author and theologian Henri Nouwen writes that the “truly good news is that God is not a distant God to be feared and avoided, a God of revenge, but a God who is moved by our pains and participates in the fullness of the human struggle.”  Making space for lament is, at the very least, about authenticity. 

Giving Voice to What is Wrong

Besides our own personal grief, we think of the strife around us — economic and racial inequity, political abuses, sexual violence. A season of lament gives voice to our experience. Rather than stuffing it down and pretending we have it all together… rather than living in a state of constant rage, observing a season for lament is honest. After all, if we can’t express sorrow, we’ve lost part of our humanity. 

By now we see that the practice of lament is not strictly individual. Lent is observed in community because suffering is something we share in common. While grief can be isolating, lament is a tune sung in harmony, uniting us with each other and with a God who precedes us in grieving what ills us.

A Christian observation of Lent, however, doesn’t leave us at the level of greater honesty and unity alone. As we acknowledge and grieve what is wrong with the world, we realize that in many cases what is wrong with the world includes us. The season of Lent asks us to not only face the reality of injustice, but to grieve our part in perpetuating it. In that way, the gospel prepares us to receive the promise of Easter. We arrive at Easter not simply celebrating the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but celebrating an objective reality of new life in which we begin to participate. Everything is being made new. 

Ways to Lament Together

Perhaps it is exactly now — when life is indeed fast, demanding, and full — that we need to lament. NSCBC invites you to join us in this season in one or more ways.

  • We will begin Lent with a service on February 26 at 7pm. After Wednesday, a self-guided, interactive Prayer Station will be open daily in the sanctuary to guide you through poems and psalms of lament. Open M-Th 8:30am-9pm, F 6:30am-9pm, Sa 9am-9pm, Su 1pm-9pm

  • Our Sunday morning gatherings will focus on the book of Amos and Adult Christian Formation (Sundays at 10:45am) will focus on the Minor Prophets. These books will take us into the very root of injustice and suffering.
  • We will close the Lent season in early April on what is, coincidently, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassanation. In honor of that date, we will hold our second annual public reading of one of his speeches and include a panel discussion to help us take what we are learning forward into our communities.