06 Feb Just in Time for Lent – Free Discussion Guide for “Rejoicing in Lament”
As we approach the season of Lent, are there ways that you and your congregation are going to journey with Christ to the cross and resurrection?
I’m often asked about how congregations can incorporate lament into their worship and their life. There are a number of ways to do this: such as recovering the reading and memorizing of the Psalms, and providing space in worship not only for confession, but also songs and prayers of lament. “How long, O Lord?” This question echoes all of our cries over the injustice, loss and unbelief in the world and in our lives.
I sometimes suggest taking a particular season to rediscover the Christian practice of lament as well. This last fall, I discovered that quite a few groups were using Rejoicing in Lament for small group or congregation-wide studies. I am deeply grateful that it can be a gift on the path of both rejoicing and lamenting in the Lord. So, along with a student, Anna Radcliffe, I undertook a task to write a study guide to serve as a resource for discussions.
It was much harder than it sounded. How do you write questions which both open up sharing, but also enter into discussion which immerses us more deeply into scripture itself? That was the challenge. After writing and feedback from numerous pastors on drafts, we have it done. And it’s free!
Each chapter has four or so questions for discussion, and then an exercise to encounter God’s Word in scripture anew. To give you a little taste, some questions from chapter one are below. May God’s Spirit meet you anew, this Lent, as you walk with Christ in our present valley, anticipating his resurrection hope!
Billings comments that visions of the “American dream” often include the belief that we are entitled to live a long life. Instead, he suggests that every day should be lived as a gift. In what ways have we confused the expectations of the “American dream” with the gospel? What are some ways to realistically live life as a gift?
Toward the end of chapter 1, Billings reminds us of our mortality while recognizing that death does not have the final word in Christ. However, death does have a limited reign. How have you encountered the pain of death’s limited, yet potent reign? Has this led you to bring your anger and grief before God? Why or why not? If you have brought this before God, how did you do so?
Encountering the Word Anew
Read Psalm 130 aloud. What do you notice about the way the psalmist approaches God in the psalm? What are some emotions that you experienced while reading this psalm? In what ways might psalms like this one be a companion in bringing our various emotions—grief, regret, discontentment—before the God of the covenant?