Psalm 22: Cry of Anguish, Song of Praise

An Arts Week Chapel Service

The following service was designed to be part of an arts week at Regent College. The readings were organized by Stacey Gleddiesmith and Robert Lockridge. The service was coordinated by Stacey with help from Aminah Al-Attas Bradford, Robert Lockridge, and Andrea Tischer. Various Regent College students and faculty members contributed their artistic talents for this service as we sought to exegete and communicate the text of Psalm 22 through various art forms.


Call to worship: Spoken prayer 1

A cry for help: Psalm 22:1-2

Congregational response, sung

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy on us.

Looking back at God’s faithfulness (national): Psalm 22:3-5, group reading

R1: Yet you are holy

R2: Yet you are holy

R3: Yet you are holy

R1: Yet you are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

R2: In you our ancestors trusted;

R3: They trusted and you delivered them.

All: To you they cried out and were delivered;

R1: In you they trusted

R2: In you they trusted

R3: In you they trusted and were not disappointed.

Artistic Exegesis

We cling, in the midst of trouble, to the character of God presented to us in Scripture, and to memories of God’s faithfulness in the past.

Congregational response: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” st. 1-2, no chorus CH 245, PH 9, PsH 328, SFL 123, SWM 81, TH 194, WR 154

Expression of reality (internal): Psalm 22:6-8

Congregational response, sung

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy on us.

Looking back at God’s faithfulness (personal): Psalm 22:9-10, group reading

R3/All/R3: Yet you brought me forth from the womb;

R1/All/R1: You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts.

R2/All/R2: Upon you I was cast from birth;

All: Since my mother bore me you have been my God.

Artistic exegesis

We often have difficulty reconciling God’s character and love for us with the circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in.

Expression of reality (external): Psalm 22:11-18

Congregational response, sung

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy on us.

Artistic exegesis

When we’re in pain we can sink into the depths—feeling abandoned by God and given over to death.

Spoken prayer 2

Plea for help, promise of proclamation: Psalm 22:19-22, group reading

R1: But you, O Lord

R2: But you, O Lord

R3: But you, O Lord, be not far off;

R1: be not far off

be not far off (add R2)

be not far off (add R3)

R1: O you my help,

R2: come quickly to my aid.

All: Deliver my soul from the sword,

R2: My life from the power of the dogs.

R1: Save me from the lion’s mouth;

R3: From the horns of the wild oxen you answer me.

R2: I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; In the midst of the assembly

R1: I will praise you.

R2: I will praise you.

R3: I will praise you.

All: I will praise you.

Congregational response: “Blessed Be Your Name,” Matt and Beth Redman (see RW 100)

Artistic exegesis

We express a cry for help that expects God to answer—darkness shot through with light.

Expression of reality (God’s faithfulness endures): Psalm 22:23-2

Congregational response: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” CH 11, PH 356, PsH 486, TH 457, WR 68

Expression of reality (God is with us in suffering; his rule will be complete): Psalm 22:27-31, group reading

R3: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn

R1: remember and turn to the Lord,

R2: And all the families of the nations will worship before you.

R3: And all the families of the nations will worship before you.

R1: And all the families of the nations will worship before you.

R3: For the kingdom is the Lord’s

R1: And he rules over the nations.

R2/All: All the prosperous of the earth will feast and worship,

R3/All: All who go down to the dust will bow before him.

R1 (whisper): Even those who cannot keep their souls alive.

R2: Posterity will serve him;

R3: Future generations will be told about the Lord.

R1: They will come

R2/All: and will declare his righteousness to a people yet unborn,

R3/All: that he has performed it.

R1: He has done it

He has done it(add R2)

He has done it (add R3)

All: It . . . is . . . finished.

Spoken prayer 3

Final, joyful artistic exegesis/congregational response

Whatever you choose to place at the end of the service, it should be wholly joyful. This psalm is one of the most dramatic transformations from despair to joy and praise (the heart of a biblical lament)—so the final element of the service should be bursting at the seams with joy!

Notes on the Service

Introductory remarks: Introduce the service with words like the following to set the context for worshipers:

This is not a presentation of the artistic endeavors of this community—this is exegesis, through the arts, of Psalm 22, hopefully in a way in which you can enter the text with us. Instead of a sermon, we will hear and see a variety of artistic responses as we move together through Psalm 22.

Within the midrash of Jeremiah is a section that reads: “God asks of Jeremiah: ‘Do you not feel pain? Not for me? Not for my children? Go and summon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses from their sepulchers, for they know how to weep.’”

Biblical lament is not mere weeping, however; lament expects an answer. When Christ hung dying on a cross, he spoke the words of Psalm 22—a lament. The message in speaking lament in the very teeth of death is that nothing is beyond the power of God’s answer, not even death.

This is not an attempt to make you remember every grief-stricken moment you have experienced, although you are welcome to bring those moments here. We are here to express our own pain, but also to sing the wider lament that needs to be sung: the pain of our neighbors and the pain of the world.

Artistic exegesis: If you have few artists in your congregation, consider showing something on the screen, playing a meaningful piece of recorded music, or watching a short film or recorded dance. You may need to provide guidance to your congregation if they are not accustomed to interacting with certain art forms, perhaps simply by saying something like this: “As you look at this painting, consider the ways in which God is faithful.” You might also consider inserting a communal activity that enlivens the text for your congregation (for example, invite the congregation to list on paper their own suffering and the suffering they see in the world, and then nail those lists to a wooden cross).

Spoken prayers: If you have talented writers in your congregation, see if they are willing to write creative spoken prayers to guide the congregation’s response. The prayers should gradually move from individual response with an internal focus to communal response with an external focus. If you are unable to find someone to do this, you could use suitable segments of a formal liturgy, or simply have a pastorally gifted member of the congregation pray spontaneously at each point (this person should be given the order of service in advance).

Group reading, Psalm 22: The readings offered here are organized for three readers and unison (in bold). Staggered text is intended to be overlapped, and when unison text is inserted in the middle of one of the readers’ lines the intention is for the original reader of that line to continue through, with the other two readers joining in for the few words that are highlighted as unison. There is also repeated text in which one voice starts, a second is added, and then a third. One line is intended to be read as a whisper. The readings should be practiced beforehand, as they are quite complex.

Congregational response: We used a sung response of: “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy on us” as a repeated congregational response. All other congregational songs could be replaced with music suited to your specific congregation. Congregational response could also include things like group prayer, silent meditation, and antiphonal readings.

Stacey Gleddiesmith ( is the staff writer at Regent College in Vancouver. Stacey also leads theology of worship workshops and is involved in leadership at Utown Church, which meets on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

Reformed Worship 102 © December 2011, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.