Hm … what WOULD my preferred worship service look like?

The Evangelical Meaning of High Church WorshipThe question arose in the comments to one of my posts (The difficulty of the ‘high-church’ evangelical) some weeks ago as to what my ‘perfect’ worship service would look like. This is an interesting question, and probably unanswerable. Half in jest, I am tempted to say, ‘1662’, but, then, maybe not…

Nonetheless, there are some elements that I would like to see for a regular Sunday morning service:

  • Regular communion. Preferably weekly or biweekly. I grew up with weekly, but in Toronto biweekly worked well with BCP 1959/62 Morning Prayer the other weeks.
  • Lots of Bible. Whether Communion or not, read out at least two, if not three or four, passages of Scripture. They don’t need to all be the text preached on. The Bible just needs to be proclaimed to us as a people and assimilated into our hearts. The regular reading aloud of the Word before the congregation helps that. It is an ancient component of Christian worship.
  • Psalms. Sung, preferably. A cappella if possible. I’m not joking. The Psalms were Israel’s hymn book/prayer book. These are the prayers and hymns of Jesus’ worship life. Make them those of your church as well.
  • Liturgy. For some, the perfect church service is obviously 1662 or the Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints John Chrysostom or the Roman Mass. For many, and for the sort of Protestants I have in mind, pure, undiluted liturgy may be too much. Worship is about giving glory to God. If you are distracted by the printed words or the incense or the procession with candles, you aren’t glorifying God. There is a place for out-and-out high liturgy, but I don’t think it’s necessary all the time, nor preferable.

    What I’m thinking of is something basic and structured, especially for the Communion. I think a regular service of Holy Communion is not only to include the words of institution from the Last Supper but is best done with a liturgy that ties in traditional liturgy running from ‘Lift up your hearts’ to the receiving of the elements — words that have been in use since the late 100s in Hippolytus.

    Responsive/antiphonal readings/prayers are also part of my preferred service — litanies, for example. And a set-piece confession can provide us with theologically precise words to express our sorrow and the lowly state of the human soul before Almighty God.

  • Confession — a time of silence to offer a private confession, whether accompanied by liturgy or not, is worthwhile. Obviously, we are to confess every time we sin in real life, but this sort of communal activity in public helps teach us and remind us what to do in private. It is a healthy part of public worship not only to revel in God’s glory together but to look into the depths of our murky hearts as well.
  • Old and new. The Christian faith has produced hundreds — nay, thousands — of hymns over the centuries. Churches ignore the treasure house of hymns to their peril. If your church is going to be using contemporary worship, I recommend adding at least two hymns into the mix each Sunday. Alongside the latest hits from Stuart Townend or Matt Redman, sing also the old hits from Prudentius, Charles Wesley, or J M Neale.

    As regards the new, while I prefer classic hymns, I do not disparage all new music. I simply urge discretion — why sing something simply because it’s new and popular? Is it poetically, theologically, and/or musically worth singing? While people approach the Lord’s Table for Communion is a good time to sing new songs, I have found.

  • Sermon. Sermons are good. In a service such as this, where we are worshipping God, praying, confessing sin, receiving Eucharist, reading Scripture, and so forth, I don’t think the sermon needs to be big and long and even the central or most important aspect. I think people should be encouraged to get into the meat of Scripture in smaller Bible studies during the week, not in long, lecture-style sermons on Sunday. Preach from one or more of the given texts, clock in at 20-25 min (which is long for Anglicans!).
  • Other trappings? I like candles. I admit it up front. Sometimes I like incense, too. The presence of beauty in the worship space is important to me. If I were to blend traditional and low-evangelical worship styles, I’d go for candles at least. Robes preferably, maybe even copes and chasubles on occasion. The latter two, I think, should only appear on super-special feasts, though. 🙂

That is to say: My ideal worship service is liturgically structured with words and truths grounded in Scripture and tradition but with a flexibility of certain pieces of content — new songs and hymns are to be used with wisdom, similarly new litanies for the prayers of the people.

One final element is the occasional liturgical sermon. Every once in a while, have a sermon that helps explain why and what is going on in the worship service. Or preach a sermon that investigates the biblical basis for some of the popular words and phrases in the prayers and songs. Or investigate the theological foundations for the sacraments. Run a series on the Creed(s). This sort of preaching will help keep the liturgy from becoming a dead beast performed by rote.

The question should always be about the end goal of worship, of the showing to God His worth, the praising of Him, the offering Him thanksgiving, and the beseeching Him of our prayers. As the BCP puts it:

…we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.

Do our worship and liturgical practices encourage this? That is the great question.

The BCP as School of Prayer

Last year was a much-celebrated anniversary, the 400th birthday of the King James Version of the Bible. This year, another text of great importance for Anglophone Christianity and the English language has been celebrating a milestone with almost no clamour or fanfare at all — the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, that version of the Prayer Book most widely used of all, common to all non-British, non-Irish Anglican Churches, and substantially still the Prayer Book of the Church of England and even of the Anglican Church of Canada today.

But why celebrate the BCP? The importance of the KJV is self-evident; in a Christianity populated by a plurality of Anglophone Protestantisms, to have had a single translation common to us all for so long was outstanding. Its contributions to language are also of note, either through its introduction of certain phrases, or at least its popularization of them.

One could make the language argument for 1662 as well — PD James’ novel Children of Men takes its title from one of the Coverdale Psalter’s most common periphrases for human beings; Stevenson has the phrase ‘all sorts and conditions of  men’ lurking in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But we shall skip along to the spiritual significance of 1662 and personal prayer.

We begin our investigation with the gestation years of 1662 — the bright days of Cranmer and Edward VI, the dark days of Mary I, the once-more illumined years of Elizabeth I, then the confused days of Civil War, and the dark days of Cromwell’s harsh, naked, Christmas-free Puritanism.

1662 Book of Common Prayer

In these years, the Church of England was seeking her identity — not yet clearly and unequivocally today’s episcopal church championing Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, and Andrewes at every turn, but a Church with those such as Baxter, Bradshaw, Perkins, Owen, Milton also trying to see their vision of Reformed Christianity triumph. One of the live debates in these years was the necessity of a general confession before receiving communion.

My friend Tim recently told me that William Bradshaw argued that it was unnecessary because the justified sinner hates sin that the moment he or she is aware of it, repentance ensues. There is, therefore, no need for a general confession; the faithful will have already confessed all of their sins. Furthermore, are we not made righteous by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness upon us when we come to faith? Is this not a reality of justification by faith?

Sometimes I think on this. What does make us worthy? As we even say in 1662, ‘we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table, but thou O Lord, whose property is always to have mercy, grant us so to eat the flesh …’ Does the general confession make us worthy to receive?

It is an interesting question to ponder.

And while I was making the bed the other morning, it came to me again. And in that moment, my mind stumbled upon something my friend Jeremy once said about the BCP, that through it, as we pray together, we learn how to pray when alone. The BCP is a school of prayer. This is a point my brother also makes.

Whether or not a general confession is absolutely theologically necessary to make us worthy to receive Holy Communion is, therefore — besides being a question that brings us to the realm of reductionistic, minimalist worship and theology — off the mark. The question is, rather, are we to confess our sins each day at prayer when alone, when praying with family? The answer is assuredly, yes. And how are we to pray? Here is the general confession to be said before receiving Communion:

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And so we see the stance of humility found throughout the 1662 BCP, reminding us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. That, as stated elsewhere, we do not approach Christ ‘through our own righteousness, but through thy manifold and great mercies,’ that last phrase being a parallel to ‘our manifold sins and wickedness’ bewailed above.

The general confession that commences Evensong calls to mind how it is that we sin, ‘We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.’

If you pray the BCP often, its words and its rhythm, its phrases and ideas get into your blood. Phrases such as, ‘O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us,’ spill from your lips. And all the while it teaches you to pray, not just when you make your confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees, but also when prayers rise like incense for the Queen, for Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, for Peace, for All Sorts and Conditions of Men.

I hope you have a BCP (not ECUSA 1978, tho) nearby you this evening or tomorrow morning. I hope you can take it in your hand and pray to Almighty God, that he may open your lips — and your lips may show forth his praise.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

St. Paul’s Cathedral and the BCP

St. Paul’s Cathedral

This past Tuesday evening, my wife and I found ourselves outside St Paul’s Cathedral, London, 15 min before Evensong. Being lovers of Evensong, how could we resist? Plus, it meant getting into one of the grand churches of Anglicanism without having to pay an evil fee.

We were cheerily directed to the Choir where we sat on a little bench in front of the stalls (which were full already — but the little bench had better back support!). We walked through this glistening white space, beneath its large dome where music can resound and ring like the voices of the angels of heaven. In the choir we sat in the gilded space, mosaics gleaming down from above us, the Holy Table with its canopy at the far end.

I like the Holy Table at St. Paul’s; it has yet to be marred by a modern, swanky cross; let us hope it stays that way. It is beneath a large canopy, calling to my mind the ciborium in the Basilica Sant’Ambrogio in Milan. Hanging from the canopy are carved cherubim, calling to one’s mind the Temple of Solomon (although his would have had a more Near Eastern feel, not Renaissance). These cherubim bring to mind the reality that Christ’s sacrifice, which we commemorate and (in a way) recapitulate in the Eucharist, is the culmination and fulfilment of Israel’s Temple worship of old.

I also noted that in the aisles flanking the choir, the ceiling is decorated with mosaics of angels. Appropriate — a reminder that we are joined by them as we worship Christ on his heavenly throne, the God-Man depicted in the mosaic on the half-dome above the altar.

But my words cannot do the Baroque majesty of St Paul’s justice. The cathedral website can at least try.

Evensong, as you well know, is an ancient service. The creators of the pew cards at St Paul’s believe that it traces its roots to the monastic worship developed in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. However, as Robert Taft points out in The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, it has its roots in earliest Christianity, possibly even Judaism, and was developed both in monastic hours of worship and in Cathedral worship, the latter being the time for the whole Christian community to gather in prayer before and after the work of the day.

The service as it was sung at St Paul’s that night was substantially Thomas Cranmer’s as originally produced in 1549 — a simplification of the two services from the Roman Breviary of Vespers and Compline with the addition of space for two substantial readings of Scripture. And, of course, in English.

Although they cut a few things, such as the prayer of confession at the beginning (despite the Prologue to the service saying that ‘we ought most chiefly so to do’ at times of common worship), one of the strengths of this service, in contrast to Westminster Abbey the night before as well as to St Mary’s Cathedral and a couple of Edinburgh’s Anglo-Catholic communities, was this very fact that the service was entirely in the English tongue, rather than ‘in a tongue not understanded of the people’, thus following Article of Religion 24. Well done, St Paul’s. Keep it up.

Furthermore, they provided us with Psalters to use during the service. Thus, although we did not join for the Psalm-singing (the congregation only joined in for the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed), we could follow along. This made the Evensong feel more like a church service and less like a choir concert — unlike Westminster Abbey the night before.

After the requisite collects, we were led in a few prayers, including a lovely one from the Venerable Bede.

The choir was magnificent. It was mixed men’s and boys’ voices, bringing us the full range of luxuriousness and texture and beauty that the English choral tradition can provide. Thus we found Cranmer’s beautiful words — paired, of course, with Coverdale’s beautiful Psalter — matched with beautiful music in a beautiful cathedral. If there had been more congregational worship, perhaps the perfect production of the BCP?

Now, St. Paul’s Cathedral was begun in 1675 after the Great Fire of 1666 and finished in 1711. These dates are notable as we consider this 350th year of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the most influential and widely-used edition of the Prayer Book for three centuries of Anglicanism, and still substantially the Prayer Book of the Church of England (though never of the Scottish Episcopal Church).

This Prayer Book of Prayer Books balances Catholic with Reformed in a way never seen before, avoiding the extremes both of Cromwell’s Puritan rites and of Mary I’s Sarum rite.* It has room for beauty, though, beauty in the language, beauty in the humility of penitent sinners making their confession, meekly kneeling upon their knees. Beauty in Coverdale’s Psalter. Beauty in the phrasing of the Collects, in the Prayer of St. Chrysostom, in the majestic language of 1611’s KJV to be used for the Lessons.

Alas, however, this period of the apparent triumph of the Prayer Book, the period of the Restoration of the Monarchy, the days of rebuilding St. Paul’s, are precisely when the Anglican experiment changes tack. Having produced a liturgy that is theologically consonant with the Reformed point of view, the Church of England at this time makes it possible for non-conformists to preach and worship outside of the Anglican hierarchy and to construct their own chapels. Thus, the bulk of the successors to the Puritans eventually leave, removing their voice from the Anglican conversation and becoming Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists.

This is the backdrop for Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s where you can hear sung Cranmer’s beauteous liturgy beneath a gilded mosaic. These figural representations of angels (not Saints, my friends!) and of our true King, Jesus Christ, are part of an Anglican conversation where Laud and Charles I (the Church of England’s sainted martyr!) are triumphant, and where majesty can rule as the Church seeks a balance between tradition and reform, part of an Anglican conversation diminished by the loss of some of her participants.

*Technically the Sarum Use of the Roman Rite.

From what are we saved? Scriptural, Liturgical, and Patristic Answers

In my post against the Prosperity Gospel (and in favour of St. Clement of Alexandria), I made it clear that neither Scripture nor the Great Tradition affirms the idea that Jesus Christ saves people from poverty, illness, small houses, small cars, bad jobs, mean people, etc, and that all we need for such “victory living” is faith.

However, Christianity does affirm that Jesus saves. The salvation offered by Jesus is not just the sort of thing dc Talk sings about involving “a man with a tat on his big, fat belly,” or an invention of revivalistic evangelicalism in the Welseyan era.

According to Scripture, Jesus saves; here are a few quotations (all NIV):

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Mt 1:21)

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mt 10:22)

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mk 8:35)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Lk 19:10)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (Jn 3:16-17)

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. (Jn 10:9)

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

But from what are we saved? Many people have given answers to this, and I believe that many of them catch different aspects of the same reality of Christ’s saving work in the life of those who put their trust in him.

Traditionally, the sacrament of baptism has been the moment of entry into Christ’s church; let us not forget St. Peter in Acts telling people to “repent and be baptised” as the way of salvation. We shall be highly Anglican at this point, and turn to liturgy to consider salvation.

We start with the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer (1662). Anglicans practise infant baptism, where the parents and godparents make the baptismal vows in the child’s place:

Question. What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for you?
Answer.They did promise and vow three things in my name. First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. Secondly, that I should believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith. And thirdly, that I should keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.

Question. Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee?
Answer. Yes verily: and by God’s help so I will. And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life’s end.

Later in the Catechism we read that baptism is “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.”

From these two moments in the Catechism, we learn that salvation, as symbolised/enacted/recapitulated in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, is a renunciation of the devil and all his works, the empty things of the world, and of sin — indeed, it is “a death unto sin.”

Having died to sin and made this renunciation, the baptised Christian is in the “state of salvation” already.

This point is an important one, for many would tell us that salvation is merely a “Get out of Hell Free” card, a ticket to Heaven when we die. According to the Anglican tradition, such is not the case. Rather, salvation is a state in which we dwell here on earth. We are saved in this earthly existence from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The world, in this instance, is not the entire universe or the globe of the earth but, rather, those aspects of the world around us that are evil or tend towards evil. Such is the traditional Christian understanding of “the world” in moments as this (see the ever-popular Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way on this).

The flesh is not your body. It that inner part of you that tends towards evil. As quoted before, Sergei Bulgakov (quoted by Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way) says, “Kill the flesh, in order to acquire a body.”

The devil is not a red guy with goat legs and a pitch-fork. He is also, however, not simply the psychological world of the subconscious that swirls around tempting us in various ways — that would be the flesh. As Robertson Davies says in Happy Alchemy, “People don’t believe in the devil nowadays; that is one of the devil’s favourite jokes.”

The devil is a personal force of evil with minions, just as angels are personal forces of good. The power of the devil is primarily in his ability to tempt us towards evil. His temptations are those that don’t seem to come exclusively from within ourselves nor really from the world around us. They are diabolical; but our flesh is always the deciding factor when we sin. As agents with freewill, we choose sin all by ourselves. The devil just helps us along.

According to Pope St. Leo the Great, the devil has had another role in human history. After the Fall, according to Leo, the devil received the souls of the dead humans and took them to Hades. This was his … em … job. We read:

the Son of God took on Him the nature of mankind in order to reconcile it to its Maker, that the devil, the inventor of death, might be conquered through that very nature which had been conquered by him. (Sermon 21.1; trans. W Bright, my emphasis)

For if Godhead by itself were to stand forth in behalf of sinners, the devil would be overcome rather by power than with reason. And again, if the mortal nature by itself were to undertake the cause of the fallen, it would not be released from its condition, because it would be free from its stock. Therefore it was necessary that both the Divine and human substances should meet in our Lord Jesus Christ, that our mortal nature might, through the Word made flesh, receive aid alike from the birth and passion of a new Man. (Sermon 56.1; trans. W Bright, my emphasis)

Leo is a master rhetorician who uses evocative language and series of balances and antitheses to make his points about who Jesus is and what Jesus does for us. In these two passages, Leo speaks of Jesus’ action towards the devil (something not lacking in other of his sermons or the Tome). The devil has been beaten by Jesus; he has been beaten through Our Lord’s incarnation and passion. Jesus’ death on the Cross destroyed the power of the devil.

Jesus, perfect God and perfect man, died as a criminal. Having lived a sinless life, his soul was not the property of the devil. As God, death was not part of his nature. Thus, the Crucified God “trampled down death with death.”* He defeated the devil and served as a ransom for our souls — none of us, as a result, need have his’er soul taken by the devil.

This brings us to what else Jesus saves us from — death. This part of salvation is the bit that most people tend to think of when they hear, “Jesus saves.” We have been trained to think thus, “Ask Jesus into your heart, say sorry for the bad things you have done, and you will not go to Hell when you die.” Sometimes, the Hell bit is skirted and we are told, “And you will live forever with Him in heaven.”

This salvation from death is present from the days of the Apostles, of course — “Death, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:55) — and is not to be played down, as the BCP ensures it is not, as in Publick Baptism of Infants:

Almighty and everlasting God … We beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon this Child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church; and being stedfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally he may come to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with thee world without end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Nonetheless, our salvation, even here where an important part of the prayer is that the child may have “everlasting life” — ie. not die — a great concern is present for this life being lived with Christ.

To take all these swirling bits of things, Scriptural, liturgical, patristic, we see that Jesus does not save us from poverty or illness. Not as a general rule, anyway. He saves us from death — this is both the current notion of Heaven vs. Hell and the older, traditional notion of “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (see my trans of the Apostle’s Creed).

He saves us from the world, the flesh, the devil.

By his grace (favour), he gives us the strength we need to resist temptations and fight evil (we fight evil by waging peace).  When Jesus saves us, we have the ability to do good things. We are released from the stranglehold sin has over us. As time goes on, sin should become more and more infrequent as we rely on his grace and his power. (This is why my wrangling with Pelagians counts, by the way.) Part of salvation is trusting in Him for this strength rather than ourselves.

These 1776 words leave us with another question, and that one is important: How are we saved? Someday I’ll tell you. 😉

If I’m not making sense, tell me and I’ll be more coherent.

*Paschal Troparion of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

“worthily lamenting our sins”

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  As we prayed the various penitent prayers and Psalms at church, I couldn’t help but think of the strongly penitential tone of the BCP and its emphasis on actual sorrow for sins.  Indeed, in 1662, we “moan and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,” although by 1962 this is mellowed to “acknowledge and confess”.  One of the beautiful prayers in Compline prays that “we may so abound in sorrow for our sins . . .”

Sorrow?  Lament?

We live in a world where, even amongst Christians, the very idea of sin is very unpopular, where the wickedness of the average human heart is ignored and denied — as in the modern liturgy used by my evangelical Anglican church last night where we confessed our “brokenness,” not our “wickedness.”  Yet, as Christine Watt preached boldly from the pulpit at last night’s service, Sin is real.  It is the root of so much pain and sorrow and suffering in our world.  It is the inner condition of humanity, the reason for our many daily small rebellions, let alone the big, flashy wrongdoings.

Yet even if we admit the reality of Sin and its insidious presence in our lives, damaging our relationships, distorting the beautiful image of God within us, do we lament?  We fight sin, surely.  We are good at the linguistic approach to repent, knowing that what it means is to turn 180 degrees and walk a new direction, as Josephus encouraging a Jewish soldier to repent and fight for Rome, or John the Baptist telling that brood of vipers to repent and live holy lives.

However, whenever we think of sorrow, we think of things quite repugnant to the modern mind.

We imagine ashes on our heads, rending our garments, rubbing excrement on our faces, shedding tears, flagellating ourselves, grovelling at the feet of a fierce, wrathful God who will destroy us with fire if we do not repent and live according to his rules.

We remember St. Ambrose saying that if we do not shed tears, we are not truly repentant.

We remember St. Thomas a Kempis’ endless sorrow for his sinful state that hung as a shadow over much of Soliloquy of the Soul.

Sorrow need not be so extreme.  Indeed, I do not believe that the Christian should spend his or her entire life weeping over sin and grovelling in the dust, for we are called to rejoice in the Lord always.  Christ says that if we love one another, our joy shall be full.

Nevertheless, sorrow for sin can be real.  I think it should be real.  If we know God, if we are in a real relationship with him, should we not grieve to harm him?  If we have compassion for the people around us, should we not grieve to harm them?  Indeed, we should.  Just as we rejoice to bring joy to our beloved, so it strikes me as natural to sorrow when we bring sorrow to our beloved.

Maybe this lament will be nothing more than an inner pang of regret when we do something wrong.  Maybe it will be larger, depending on the sin or its frequency.

And once this lament is done, once we have sorrowed for our sins, we should enter the joy of repentance.  We can live the new life.  We are reconciled to our Friend.  There is no longer any need for sorrow, for we are forgiven through our mediator and advocate, Jesus Christ.  Sorrow for sin, if real, should ever turn to joy in forgiveness, hope for resurrection.