Throughout the Psalms we witness David cry out for deliverance in seasons of anguish and grief, seeking refuge and strength from the Lord. Likewise, Jesus petitioned God in the garden of Gethsemane for strength in a time of dire need. The cries from both David and Jesus to God reflect the forgotten spiritual discipline of lament. Lament is not sorrow without ultimate hope—that is despair. Rather, lament is trust in God despite, and even by way of, the experience of hopelessness.
In Awake in Gethsemane Tim Judson envisions the place and meaning of lament for the Christian community through close engagement with the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. After documenting the historical decline and current lack of lament within much of the Western Church, Judson offers a threefold approach to the subject, arguing that a basis for lament is necessarily located in theology, ethics, and liturgy interdependently. This relationship frames the critical work carried out alongside Bonhoeffer, interpreting lament through his Christology, ecclesiology, and biblical exegesis. A constructive lamentology emerges, aimed to facilitate the church’s engagement with some critical contemporary issues.
Judson presents lament as a faithful aspect of the truly human life which, in and through Christ, is for and with others. Lament is a means by which disciples stay "awake with Christ in Gethsemane" in a wounded world where sin, suffering, and sorrow abide. Such an outlook challenges prevalent ideological horizons and common presuppositions about lament which preclude or distort this crucial spiritual discipline. Hence, Judson opens new imaginative possibilities for construing lament positively and creatively, witnessing to the reality that faithful freedom is embodied perfectly by the lamenting Jesus himself, who, by way of his own lament, is the salvation of the world.
Introduction: A Lamentable Problem
1. A Theology of Lament
2. An Ethic of Lament
3. A Liturgy of Lament
4. A Chorus of Lament
5. A Story of Lament
Conclusion: A Lamentable Body
Tim Judson (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is Lecturer in Ministerial Formation at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. He is an accredited Baptist Minister and serves as Pastor of Honiton Family Church, Devon. He is also a member of the International Bonhoeffer Society.
The spectre of cheap grace has haunted White ecclesial bodies since Bonhoeffer charged the bourgeois and comfortable in his short but memorable ministerial and academic career. Judson’s prophetic book is a bold restatement of the radical claims of Bonhoeffer’s legacy. Judson outlines the significance of a critical understanding of lament as the means for demonstrating greater equity in models of reconciliation and justice making for the contemporary church.
~Anthony G. Reddie, Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford
'A reformation is afoot,' Tim Judson writes, a reformation in the Western church toward 'recovering lament.' Awake in Gethsemane takes part in this reformation, using key insights from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology to root this renewed impulse toward lament in the person of Christ and the nature of the church. In his last days, Bonhoeffer expressed profound gratitude for the insight that 'one becomes a human being, a Christian' through faithful solidarity in suffering, a solidarity often expressed in lament. That Judson attends to this insight with such rare learning and sensitivity will evoke gratitude among many who value Bonhoeffer's work.
~Joel Looper, author of Bonhoeffer’s America: A Land without Reformation
In our politically fraught, post-pandemic world, Tim Judson’s exploration and commendation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s use of lament seems overdue. Judson calls out the Western church for failing to name and mourn suffering, to lament, and calls it what it is: a failure to support the most vulnerable among us. His careful exploration of Bonhoeffer’s intersecting theological, christological, ethical, and liturgical understanding of lament holds the church accountable and offers a much-needed word of hope.
~Lori Brandt Hale, Professor of Religion, Augsburg University