Lament and Light
by Robert Weston, arranged by Peter Richards
It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord can be rejoicing with the bride and groom who are plighting their troth to one another, at the very same time as He suffers alongside those who are grieving the loss of the beloved partner. How is it that Heaven is able to delight in those who are coming to faith or entering its gates, even while another loved soul passes forever beyond the reach of Jesus saving grace? God is Spirit, infinitely pure and compassionate, and limited by none of those things that constrain us.
As we look around the world, we see many truly desperate situations. These may change over time, but the reality of a world in pain remains constant. We are sharing a precious offering in this edition that seeks to capture in music something of the grief of humanity whilst also drawing us into the light of God’s presence. The theme came to me when I was singing and praying in tongues for a friend, and it developed into a piece for clarinet, cello and piano.
The first short movement, little more than a minute long, expresses aspects of this lament. I have sought to capture in it something of the cry of pain that Jesus Himself sounded, as He grieved for the suffering that would come upon the women of Jerusalem because the city had missed the hour of its visitation, (Lk. 19:44: 23:28). Bowed down under the weight of the Cross, He ached for the pain and devastation that would come as a result.
True lament is far more than a song to express our grief. It is a core aspect of prayer that helps us to cry out to the Lord with all the intensity of our inarticulate longings and pain. The psalmists knew the power of lament; they trusted that when they brought their lament to Him, He would hear and take heed to their sorrow. They looked for His light to come right into the midst of all that had failed and broken. Even as Jesus staggered toward His death, He knew that eternal joy awaited Him in His Father’s presence through and beyond His sorrow and His sacrifice, and that Light would break through into the darkness of the world. (Heb. 12:2; Is. 60:1)
We are drawn into that Light with the second movement of this piece. The cello introduces the haunting melody of a Swedish lovsång (hymn) with a resonant and deep reassurance that the Lord not only hears our lament but takes it to heart. As the clarinet takes up the melody, we find solace in knowing that all is seen and understood in Heaven. From this moment on, we begin to hear something of Heaven’s song of sparkling light and love, as the ruach breath of life alights upon the people and the places for whom the Spirit has stirred our compassion.
It is so fitting that songs of both lament and praise should have their place in the way we express our faith and longings. May this simple piece of music help you to give expression to the cries of your own heart.
I am enormously grateful to Peter Richards for greatly improving my original piano score, as well as playing and recording it. Huge thanks too, to Rebecca Whettam, and Mike and Natalie Halliday who overcame the challenges of lockdown by recording the clarinet and cello parts in their own homes. How wonderful that our God is never locked down!
A keening song
Spring up, o wells of lament,
and let the Heavens pour down the beauty of Kingdom light.
In the quiet of the morning,
I lift my keening song.
Amid the whirling round of busyness
I bring to You each crying need.
In the passion of the fray
I seek to find and follow in Your way.
Swathed in the cool of the evening,
I gather and pool my prayers.
Through the silence of the long night hours
I enclose myself again in You,
seeking both the comfort of Your presence
and the wisdom of Your timeless guidance.
Lord Jesus, in all our distress You too are afflicted and distressed –
and in Your love and compassion You send the angel of Your presence
to lift us up and carry us,
and to rescue and redeem us,
just as You have done so many times before. (Is. 63:9)