learning to lament [a liturgy]

I wake almost every morning around 4am, partly out of habit after two years with early rising children, partly because of a bladder that will never be the same after having two humans sitting on it for the better part of a year. I tip toe to the bathroom so I don’t wake the kids and then back to bed where I lie awake staring at the minutes ticking by toward morning. I almost always end up scrolling through facebook, checking on the news before the world wakes, trying to get out ahead of the latest tragedy. Maybe if I can read right now about the latest aid convoy to be bombed by my own country I won’t be so paralyzed by it when I wake up again in the morning. Maybe if I watch the latest video of police brutality now, I’ll have time to process it before I have to see it splashed across the news and playing on repeat on the radio all day. And so I squint against the bright screen and the tears slide silently to my pillow and of course, it doesn’t work. I end up having awful dreams about a dark and desperate planet, waking just as clueless about how to make my way forward as the day before.

In this struggle I have been thinking a lot about lament. It seems to be a practice largely missing from our culture. We generally like to avoid the unpleasant, and when we must face it we often barrel through to pointing fingers or slip into comfortable apathy before we can be too affected by the darkness around us. Neither response offers a sustainable rhythm; we lose a bit of ourselves every time we avoid or attack or ignore. Here is what we are missing: it is deeply human to muddle along together in this mess. Lamenting what is not right in the world is a first step towards becoming the kind of people who can work to build a better one.

In response to the weight of these past few weeks I wrote this liturgy of lament for our church to speak aloud together. I’d like to share it here in case you or your community are also struggling to find the words or space for mourning the brokenness around you.

We here in Lexington are struggling to understand the racial injustice that permeates so much of our culture and the structures that support our daily life. We are struggling to know our response to the refugee crisis, to the endless wars our nation is always entangled in. We are struggling to sort out our own family and community conflicts, to mend fences and heal broken hearts.

And so we lament together. We lean into the brokenness as a first step towards stepping into the light.



(The congregation reads the bold portions.)

God of everywhere and eternity,

you make your home among us.

God who is in the somewhere beyond space and time,

You have made us and met us in the dust of our place and our time.

You who are I AM.

You have named us and called us your own.

God, we acknowledge you as Creator of all people of every race, language and way of life and together we cry out

Do not turn your face from our shadowed planet

You have seen our brokenness and redeemed us

Abide with us now

Today we are mourning the darkness.

Darkness which forces families from their homes and communities.

Darkness which points fingers and fuels fear of those unlike us.

Darkness which puts bombs on sidewalks and bullets into bodies.

How long must we wait for justice?

How long will violence capture the imagination of your creation?

How long will power be used to diminish rather than to lift up?

Grant us a vision for a reconciled world.

Help us to do the work that often seems impossible.

The work of listening.

The work of forgiving.

The work of rebuilding.

Help us to see each other as you see us: your sons and daughters loved into being and sustained by your parental care.

Keep watch over our hearts so that the evil of racism will find no home with us.

Direct our spirits to work for justice and peace so that all barriers to your grace which oppress our brothers and sisters will be removed.


To the Creator of all peoples, who loves each of us for our uniqueness, we offer our prayers of petition:

For an end to discrimination in all its forms, we pray,

Lord of equality, hear our prayer.

That each person may be respected and valued as a child of God, we pray,

Lord of life, hear our prayer.

That the Church may be a witness and a universal sign of unity among all peoples, we pray,

Lord of unity, hear our prayer.

That each of us may acknowledge our part in mistakes and sins of the past pertaining to discrimination and racism, we pray,

Lord of sinners, hear our prayer.

For a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation among peoples who share a history of mutual mistrust, hatred, or aggression, we pray,

Lord of the broken, hear our prayer.

That the victims of racial prejudice may forgive those who persecute them, and that their persecutors may have a change of heart, we pray,

Lord of the beat down, hear our prayer.

That the Church will continue to strive to make every element of human life correspond to the true dignity of the human person, we pray,

Lord of life, hear our prayer.

For those who have struggled for civil rights, economic justice and the elimination of discrimination based on race, we pray,

Lord of justice, hear our prayer.

For the conversion of the hearts and minds of those who allow another to influence their relationships and limit their openness, we pray,

Lord of softened hearts, hear our prayer.

That we may work to influence the attitudes of others by expressly rejecting racial stereotypes, slurs, and be affirming of the cultural contributions of every racial group in our world, we pray,

Lord of diverse nations, hear our prayer.

That we may make a personal commitment to abolish social structures which inhibit economic, educational and social advancement of the poor, we pray,

Lord over all governments and powers, hear our prayer.

That we may work for decent working conditions, adequate income, housing, education and health care for all people, we pray,

Lord of all in need, hear our prayer.


(portions have been adapted from the Augustinians of the Midwest,www.midwestaugustinians.org/justpaxracepray.html)


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