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Abstract

Where are worshipers in Christian communities to go with their experiences and observations of violence, injustice, and other forms of suffering? Historically, a central source of realistic faith-based responses to tragedy has been the Psalter, broadly defined as a set of biblical psalms arranged by date to be individually and collectively read, sung, and prayed. Recent scholarship on psalms has focused on lament and complaint, and questions regarding the presence of trauma and violence in religious traditions have shown such psalms to be particularly relevant to contemporary culture.

This article examines three “psalms of lament,” Psalms 13, 42/43, and 88, discussing their implications for communal acts of worship, the development of critical theological skills in worshipers, and neglected dimensions of liturgical theological work. It argues that psalms of lament and protest, used liturgically, can enhance a congregation’s practices of truth telling, integrating life events with expressions of faith, and situating individual and communal experiences of suffering within the context of church history. Issues affecting the “performance practice” of liturgical psalms are also addressed, such as problematic content in imprecatory psalms (i.e., Psalm 137), discrepancies in the musical settings of lament and praise psalms, and styles of prayer and scripture engagement with or without the influence of lament psalms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

 

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