SHOULD WE CURSE IN CHURCH? APPROACHES FOR, BENEFITS OF, AND CAUTIONS AGAINST PREACHING IMPRECATORY PSALMS IN CHRISTIAN WORSHIP
Scott Kenworthy D.Min.
Scripture teaches that the whole Bible is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Yet one genre of biblical literature remains largely unpreached in the local church—the imprecatory psalms. Some notable church leaders have discouraged Christians from praying these psalms in private let alone utilizing them in corporate worship. But if all Scripture is the inspired Word of God, then the imprecatory psalms hold value for both the Christian life and the ministry of local congregations despite the difficulties they present. This project seeks to supplement the available theological literature by preaching the curse psalms in a local church and discerning their homiletical impact. The effect of the Word preached was measured quantitatively through a pair of congregational surveys as well as qualitatively through both weekly focus groups and self-reflection essays. The gathered data indicates a positive correlation between hearing sermons from the imprecatory psalms and 1) a Christian’s intimacy with God in prayer, 2) their appreciation for the power and effect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and 3) the local church’s commitment to confronting injustice. The data also raises concerns about potential negative outcomes when preaching the imprecatory psalms. Drawing upon both positive and negative feedback, the researcher offers guidance concerning homiletical approaches, spiritual benefits, and pastoral cautions when delivering sermons from these oft-ignored texts. The paper ends by applying the project’s findings to Miroslav Volf’s memoir Exclusion and Embrace, a theological reflection on having enemies, in hopes of tracing the initial contours of a pastoral theology of imprecation for the church.