Luke Vandevert and Father-In-Law Brian Doerksen recently led a Tuesday night Vespers at Columbia Bible College on the theme of Lament. I thought I would get some of their feedback about the process, the set list, and the response. Hopefully this will give you some insight and creative worship ideas if you are wanting to lead a service on lament.  (See another post about a Lament Service here)

Interview with Luke

What was the greatest challenge in leading an evening like this?

The greatest challenge of a lament service is making it communal. It is one thing to lead worship on a sunday morning with such strong reasons like thankfulness, joy, expectancy, and love, whereas leading a service with the focus of lament is on the polar opposite. Especially, since our culture tends to view sorrow and grief as a problem and not as an expression, I’m not sure we fully understand how to cope when those times come. Bringing this back to the question, making lament a communal focus is a challenge not to be taken lightly. Some of us have no idea what it would have been like to be Job or David because we haven’t been anywhere close to that sorrow or oppression. However, some people have. Does this mean this is a worship time for only those oppressed? no, even if we are not in that place, we can walk alongside someone who is. That turns the focus as a community, we worship God, even while we are broken and while our brother or sister is as well.

What worked really well? What would you do different?

In the psalms, there is something that Michael Card calls the “Vav adversative”. “Vav” being usually recognized as a “and” “though”. In the lament psalms, it functions almost as a “but”, or a point of turning and praising. We see this in so many of the psalms (psalm 6,13, 22, 43 etc.), So what we did was we shaped the service as if it where a lament psalm, explaining at the beginning that we are not meant to dwell in lament forever, but it’s purpose is to bring us back to praise. So, we had a defined “Vav” in the service, and when we arrived at that point, it was so encouraging to see the church body physically react as if the weight of our humanity was taken away for a brief time to worship God. That is a moment I won’t forget.

If there was something I would do differently, I would have explained things a lot more throughly. Even though we spent about 5 minutes of explaining and praying, it was still not enough as some people were still confused about the night. One factor being that our culture doesn’t necessarily lament, so it is extremely difficult for us to go such a honest place.

What kind of tips would you give someone who is planning a service on a Lament?

1. Teach it before you sing it. Lament can be simple and it can be very complicated, so be encouraged to go above and beyond to teach what it is. Otherwise, many scratching heads will pop up like daisies.

2. Study on lament. Understand it and embrace it. Michael Card has an fantastic class video of lament on Youtube that is really worth listening to.

3. Seek out your community and see if people need to sing songs of lament.

4. Be encouraged to be honest with your relationship with God. Oftentimes, I wonder if God loves our humanity more than we realize.

5. Can’t find a lament song that is the voice of your church? Try writing one. There are some incredible songs on lament out there, but there are many to be written as well. Ground yourself in Job, Lamentations, and the Psalms, and see what happens.

6. Finally, remember the “Vav”. I really believe that we are not meant to stay in the desert forever. But, sometimes we need to walk through the fire to find the shore.

Lament Service

Introduction & Preamble

Hello to the CBC Community,

As a former student and friend of many at CBC, it has been good to be on campus and see some of you throughout this year and talk about how life has been. Many of these visits have been positive, but some have been riddled with sorrow, frustration, sometimes anger. As I thought through these conversations, I began to dwell on a key question, where is our lament? So often this aspect of worship is missing in the church today.

So, on April 2nd for Vespers, we are holding a worship time with the focus of Lament. This night will be focused on the fact that it is OK to lament, that in essence, to lament is to worship. We feel very strongly that lament is an extremely important part of our worship, but it has be disregarded or pushed aside by our culture as being more of a problem rather than an expression, usually with answers like “You just need to have more faith”. Lament can provide a very honest way to bring our humanity to meet with God when life is a struggle. The Bible is full of expressive sorrow throughout Job, the Psalms, and of course Lamentations. That being said, lament is not a desert where we are meant to remain forever. I believe that the point of lament is to bring us back to praise.

What will the night look like? The night will follow that pattern of a typical lament psalm- songs expressing our very human situation, but ending with a point of recognition. Many of the songs will be new, including some originals from Brian Doerksen and myself. Some songs will have lyrics for you to feel welcome to join in to sing, some will have images for you to personally express, reflect, or pray.

Is this night for everyone? Absolutely, even if you are at a place of full rejoicing, this can be a night for you. Hopefully it will bless you as a reminder of God’s faithfulness when you walked through the fire, or as a chance to reflect on a brother or sister in Christ, or dwell on God’s heart for the world.

Why after Easter? At first, it was the only date that worked for everyone involved. But as we thought about it more – we still do lament even with the hope of the resurrection before us. For even in the light of hope and knowing, we can still suffer.

All in all, God will be glorified, even in the sorrow of our humanity. Hopefully this night we can discover something new together.

If you would like to learn more on lament worship, Michael Card was filmed teaching a class on the subject.

– Luke Vandevert


Set List

Opening Comments

You may have heard through your peers that tonight is focused on Lament, and this is true. We feel very strongly that lament is an extremely important part of our worship, but it has be disregarded or pushed aside by our culture as being more of a problem rather than an expression, even though the Bible is filled with lament. Laments can provide a very honest way to be real and meet with God when life is a struggle. We strongly believe that the purpose of lament is to bring us back to praising God. That being said, we wanted to point a couple things

1. Tonight is meant for all of us, even for those not currently in lament.
2. This is a time to be reflective individually, but as a community lament.
3. This is not meant to manipulate.
Many of the songs will be new, but we hope you can reflect on them and be a benefit to you. Now, without further ado, lets pray.

Where Are You by Luke Vandevert (not yet released)

Reason To Sing by All Sons And Daughters

Psalm 13 (How Long O’Lord) by Brian Doerksen

Desperate Shadows by Luke Vandevert (not yet released)

Silence Of God by Andrew Peterson

Speak Now Jesus by Starfield

Psalm 6 (When You Restore Me) by Brian Doerksen (not yet released)

“Vav adversative” or the point of turning (we did not make this point known, but explained at the beginning that were will be a coming around to praise)

Psalm 126 (When The Lord Restores) by Brian Doerksen (not yet released)

Always by Kristian Stanfill

I Lift My Eyes Up by Brian Doerksen

10,000 Reason by Matt Redman

Other tips of the night.

The night was used a night to reflect. To remember on what God has done or doing. In lament context, being honest and raw with what God has done or doing. There is so much wrong in the world that it can be difficult to see him affecting it. We know the truth, but it’s ok to admit that at times it is hard to grasp. That’s faith.

Because Vespers doesn’t have a preacher or announcements, it provided an evening without much direction. It worked well, but I would think that trying to intertwine with a church service will provide many positive opportunities to shape it better.

The songs were selected thematically in pairs

Where are You + Reason to sing = Doubt

Psalm 13 (How Long O’ Lord) + Desperate Shadows = Abandonment

Silence of God + Speak Now Jesus = Silence

Psalm 6 + Psalm 126 = Lament Psalm and “Vav” turning point

Always + I lift my eyes up = Promise

10,000 Reasons to conclude the night.

This picture was painted during the service.