Lament with a Purpose

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

And laments have a purpose, and laments have a cost
A requiem playing that gathers the lost
It sometimes tastes sour, this sweetness of hope
When the blizzards are raging on this lovers slope
Yet I don’t want to freeze, inside or out
For it’s you that dissolves the cold walls of doubt

– Martyn Joseph, “Turn Me Tender” from the album Deep Blue

Tonight is a night for laments. As I sit here in my home, after a dogged afternoon of writing prayers for an ecumenical Stations of the Cross experience tomorrow in St. James Town, I feel tired, worn.

As I was emailing back and forth with one of my colleagues, he remarked, of our perpetual technological problems throughout the day, “and of course, I still have that problem with the wireless….is this how the first Easter unfolded?” to which I replied:

I suspect that this version of chaotic preparations for the Upper Room would be a bit foreign. Can you imagine Thomas fumbling around, saying “I can’t get iTunes to download the right music for the feast! I think the wireless is out…I meant to download that track earlier, but I got caught up blogging Jesus’ triumphal entry last week…”

I don’t know. It’s been one of those days. A day that needed a break to the tension. And I do not mean to take away from the reality of this Maundy Thursday. The blood and the pain. The betrayal. All of it. Tonight, it seems to me, is the longest night of the Christian year. And like the disciples, I know that I too will struggle to keep watch.

As it is, I struggle to remain aware of the grief and the agony of Jesus’ conversation with his father. To remain aware of the cross he bears even today, with such unrest in our world, two thousand years later.

And so tonight I offer another lament. A lament for the state of a nation. A lament for the state of this world. One thing that I’ve returned to time and again over the course of the past weeks is an understanding (informed by Christine M. Smith) that the tears of lament must lead us to confession, and confession to resistance. The same kind of resistance that cost Jesus his life.

The litany that follows is a lament inspired by the cries of the psalmist, and the poetry of Welsh songwriter Martyn Joseph. We first used it at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Music in 2007.

I post it here today in recognition of the lamentable state of our world on Maundy Thursday 2008, praying that our common lament will lead to confession of our own complicity in Jesus’ death, and that confession will inspire us to bold and resilient resistance to injustice.

Festival of Faith and Music Lament

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

Leave a Reply