Complaining Faithfully: Psalms of Lament

Psalm Study for Lent 2021: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

Session 1: March 10

Psalm 1 (NRSV)

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 22 (NRSV; highlighted to be read responsively)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
    scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls encircle me,
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
    O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
    but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.

28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

Session 2: March 17

Chant Setting for Session 2: Psalms for All Seasons, #22B

Psalm 88

1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,

2 let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.

3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,

5 like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.

6 You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.

7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.

10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?

11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14 O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?

15 Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.

16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.

17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.

18 You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.

Session 3: March 23

Psalm 88

Psalm 88 (plainchant)
St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church San Francisco. Used with permission

Save me, Lord my God! By day, by night, I cry out.*
Let my prayer reach you; turn, listen to me.

I am steeped in trouble, ready for the grave.*
I am like one destined for the pit.

A warrior deprived of strength, forgotten among the dead, *
buried with the slaughtered for whom you care no more.

You tossed me to the bottom of the pit, into its murky darkness,*
your anger pulled me down like roaring waves.

You took my friends away, disgraced me before them.*
Trapped here with no escape, I cannot see beyond my pain.

Lord, I cry out to you all day, my hands keep reaching out.*
Do you work marvels for the dead? Can shadows rise and sing praise?

Is your mercy sung in the grave, your lasting love in Sheol?*
Are your wonders known in the pit, your justice, in forgotten places?

But I cry out to you, God, each morning I plead with you.*
Why do you reject me, Lord? Why do you hide your face?

Weak since childhood, I am often close to death.*
Your torments track me down, your trials destroy me.

All day, they flood around me, pressing down, closing me in.*
You took my friends from me, darkness is all I have left.*

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty firmament!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with clanging cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Musical Setting: Hymnal 1984, #432 (“O Praise Ye the Lord”)