Bitter Complaints

Born to Trouble

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

“What shall we pray about today?” Perhaps your congregation is used to hearing such a phrase in worship on a regular basis. Many congregations have a regular time of sharing “joys and concerns” during worship. But for others, it seems like an intrusion on the order of worship; and should the attempt be made, there would be an uncomfortable silence. Yet scripturally, we know we are called to pray for one another. How can we do that without hearing what the needs might be, or where the hurts are?

Lament often makes us uncomfortable. We’d rather present a stoic face to the world, even in the face of extreme difficulties. “I’m all right,” we’ll declare, even when we clearly aren’t all right. Scripture provides plenty of opportunities for the people of God to lament, and plenty of reasons for that lamentation. Whether we focus on individual or corporate lament, we acknowledge that there really is suffering in the world and that we are often ill equipped to deal with it on our own. Crying out to God is one means we have of expressing our pain and our neediness, even as we gather in a supportive community who will hold us up. Let there be space to lament as a body or as individuals or both as we worship this week.

Meditation for Gathering

We Seek the Power of Your Presence

We have had a hard week at home, school, work, and even in our communities, and we come this day looking for refuge. All week long, we have longed to be in your presence. When we come forward, you seemed not to be there; when we reached backward, you could not be found. We looked to the left but could not see your face; we even groped to the right but because of the darkness all around us, we could not see you. In our time of worship together with you, O Lord, we seek the power of your presence. Amen.

Bryan K. Fleet, The Africana Worship Book for Year B, Discipleship Resources, 2007, 39.

Call to Worship

Leader: Listen, for the voice of God comes near!

People: Listen, for God’s voice is not obtrusive.

Leader: We come to worship the God who became one of us,

People: Who calls us by name,

Leader: Who is Love Incarnate,

People: Who is!

Leader: Let us gather together in joy and hope –

People: Let us worship the God of Love!

Roger D. Shaw, in Flames of Spirit: Resources for Worship, Ruth Duck, ed, Pilgrim Press, 1985, 61.

Centering Prayer: Help us to be still

When nothing is right,
when we are weary and lost,
when clouds dull the sky,
help us to be still.

When our cries are unheeded,
when no effort bears fruit,
when the sun sets,
help us to be still.

When love is over,
when hope is gone,
when darkness covers the land,
help us to be still.

For in being still,
in refusing to panic or despair,
we shall come to know that God is there,
suffering alongside and with us,
waiting to show us stepping-stones through the swirling waters,
and to help us sing a new song.

Written by Kate Compston. Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website. Reposted:


(Psalm 22:1-15 and Job 23:1-9, 16-17)

Job: Then Job answered: “Again today my complaint is bitter;
his heavy hand increases my groaning.
If only I knew where I might find him,
that I might come to his place!

Left: Where are you God, where are you??
Nothing compares with the pain of your absence.

Right: God, I cry out for you all day, and there is no answer — nothing;
but at night there is no silence or rest from my inner turmoil.

Job: I would set out my case in front of him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what his defense would be,
and understand his reply to me.

Left: Yet you are holy,
the praises of your people in every generation are your throne;

Right: those who trusted in you, and whom you delivered;
those who cried out to you and were not disappointed.

Job: Would he use his great power to debate with me?
No; but he would hear what I have to say.
There a sincere person could argue it with him,
and I should be successful in my case

Left: But in my present circumstance I am not worth calling human,
rather, I’m the scorn of all humanity, despised by everyone.
It makes no difference who sees me,
without exception they curl their lip and shake their head:

Right: “He trusted in the LORD, let the LORD look out for him,
let the LORD rescue him if he delights in him.”
It’s as though they know you’re nowhere near.

Left: Yes, you brought me out of the womb,
and made me safe on my mother’s breasts.
I was cast on you at birth;
all my life you have been my God.

Job: If I go east, he is not there;
and west – I cannot make him out;
to the north he hides, and I cannot see him;
I turn to the south, but I cannot look at him.

Right: Don’t be so far away right now;
there is trouble almost upon me, and no one to help.
I am surrounded by fearful intimidating strength,
circling about me, around and around.

Left: I haven’t the strength to withstand their taunts or your absence;
my body is feeble,
and the very core of my being has melted like wax.

Job: God has made my heart weak;
the Almighty has filled me with terror;
Indeed, I am silenced by the darkness,
and thick darkness covers my face!

Right: I’ve become paralysed and speechless –
and you have set me in the dust of death.

Copyright © 2000, 2012 Jeff Shrowder. Posted on The Billabong. For use in worship, with acknowledgement. Reposted:

Prayer for the Day

Almighty God, you are holy and are enthroned upon our praises. In every time and place you have heard our cries; we have placed our trust in you, and we have never been disappointed. We rejoice in your holy Name and sing praises to your glory.

You meet every need and provide for us out of your abundance. You give us far more than we ask or deserve, by promising us the riches of eternal life. Yet we are easily led astray. We become very attached to the things of this earth and put our trust in them; then we are disappointed when they do not satisfy. For putting temporal things above heavenly things, forgive us, O Lord.

The things of heaven are put into our grasp for we have a high priest who leads us to the throne of grace. Send us out in the power of your Holy Spirit to proclaim that same grace to all the world, so all may know you and sing your praise.

Many people suffer and they know why. Others are straining under burdens which they do not understand, and the load seems heavier. Give rest for troubled minds; give release to hurting bodies; give hope to those in despair; and grant us all salvation.

Knowing that all things are possible with you, we ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

And Also With You: Worship Resources based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, OSL Publications, 1993, 133.

We Confess to God, Who Hears Our Complaints

A Call to Confession, or Confession before Eucharist based on Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Many Voices: To the one who receives and hears our filed complaints:
Forgive us when we seek to live apart from your help.
Forgive us the words that erupt from our mouths.
Forgive us the hurtful thoughts we think when we feel you are hidden from us.
Forgive our efforts to escape from your embrace.
One Voice: Free us to live in abundant life. Amen.

Words of Assurance:

Hear the good news: The same God that heard and forgave Job in the Old Testament hears and forgives us. Rise from this prayer to sin no more. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

People to One Another: Thank God that we are forgiven, in Jesus’ name! Amen.

Lindsey Baynham, Africana Writers Project, Pentecost Package 2, edited by Safiyah Fosua

Affirmation of Faith

We are not alone, we live in God's world.

We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God's presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Posted on The United Church of Canada website. and The United Methodist Hymnal ,883.

In This Series...

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes