31 July 2016

"Recovering the Lost Language of Lament"

Michael Card lead us through an excellent four-day conference on the theme of "recovering the lost language of lament." I had known of Card only as a serious contemporary Christian musician and songwriter. It turns out he is also a serious student of the biblical text with both a bachelors and a masters degree in biblical studies from Western Kentucky University. (It also turns out that we shared a professor, the late Ron Nash, who taught at WKU before coming to my seminary alma mater, Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.)

Card began by noting that lament exemplified in the Bible is a communal activity; thus, individualized American Christians don't handle grief/sorrow/lament well. Coupled with a religious culture of unrelenting extroverted positivity, lamenting is virtually unknown in White evangelicalism. The Black church in American never lost an appropriate place for lament for obvious reasons. 

Card lead us through the biblical pattern of lament (the failure of retributive justice expressed as "wilderness," a desire for God's presence in our experience of his absence, God's unbroken hesed faithfulness, and ultimately, a turn and restoration of the longed-for presence) through the texts of Job, a number of the Psalms, Jeremiah/Lamentations, and selections from the Gospels. Most importantly, however, was Card's observation that acts of lament take place in the form of direct address to God. In other words, to engage in lament is to speak to God, not about God. Speaking for myself (and I suspect many others in the Reformed tradition), the latter comes more naturally than the former. But the biblical texts of lament are clear in both their form and substance: lament is an act of worship.

Much more could be said about this exceptionally good conference but you can find out more by attending one of Card's programs elsewhere or getting his book,  "A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament".

In case you're wondering, Card also led us in song: 

Finally, we can't say enough about the venue: The Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. The facilities, food, surroundings, and overall service were as good as it gets and we are likely to take advantage of opportunities to attend other programs there.

1 comment:

  1. Scott - Angela Creech here (Don's wife). Wish I could have taken your Contracts class when I was in law school! Fascinating approach. Christian or not - the biblical principals are universally applicable.