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Why It's Hard to Worship

Studying lament in Psalm 137
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Lessons from the Psalms". See series.


A few years ago, songwriter Michael Card wrote a book and recorded an album focusing on the subject of lament. The project grew out of a series of personal losses: his sister's loss of two infants, the death of his brother's oldest son, and then the tragedy of 9/11. All of this prompted Card to write the book A Sacred Sorrow and follow it up with an album entitled The Hidden Face of God. To some, such a project seems counterintuitive. Especially for Card, who is best known as someone who writes songs for worship. After all, what does lament have to do with worship? Yet Michael Card calls lament "the lost language of worship." We have proof of that here in Psalm 137. This is a Psalm of lament—a song of grief—but it is also a Psalm of worship. It is a song of worship that helps us understand why we sometimes find it hard to worship.

It's hard to worship when you don't like where you are.

For example, we learn from the Psalmist that it's hard to worship when you don't like where you are. Worship can be hard when we don't like the place that our pilgrimage of faith has taken us, because, frankly, it's hard to worship through tears. That was the Psalmist's experience too. In verse 1-3, he describes his situation: "By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

This is a Psalm of exile. It is a lament for Jerusalem. "We wept when we remembered Zion," the Psalmist says in verse 1. Zion is the name that refers to the hill of Jerusalem, the city of David, and the site of the temple. Zion: the place where God reigned as king. According ...

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John Koessler is professor and chair of the Pastoral Studies Department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

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Sermon Outline:


I. It’s hard to worship when you don’t like where you are.

II. It’s hard to worship when the past seems better than the present.

III. It’s hard to worship when you are waiting for justice.