Cedar Park is ‘into’ Psalms this August!
The Lectionary we normally follow is in the middle of a long cycle of readings chronicling the life of David, and it seemed awkward to try to jump in at mid-life, so to speak, so we’ve decided to take the opportunity to open a window into this amazing collection of Hebrew song and poetry.
Some readers may well be aware that during my teaching ministry as an academic, my graduate research centred on the how the Psalms were sung, prayed, interpreted, and translated during the tumultuous societal and religious changes of the period of the 16th Century Reformation. Usually, the more frank of my friends will ask bluntly, “Why? What does that have to do with us now in the 21st century?”
In a tiny nutshell, here’s part of my answer; the 150 Psalms of our Bible are a songbook compiled over centuries, by people who were looking for the right words to express their relationship to God – known to them as Unknowable Mystery, Creator of the Universe, King, Lord, “Yahweh” -the Verbal God who is busy in the world alongside us. For upwards of three thousand years, new generations have discovered that these songs help them give voice to their own relationships with God, one another and the world, and that’s what fascinates me; the capacity of ancient songs to be sung in a new context of faith and life.
More than any other literature I know, the Psalms portray an honest relationship with the Divine, at times praising God’s handiwork, marvelling over God’s rescue of their ancestors, sighing with relief at God’s sustaining presence. At other times these song/poems express with poetic richness human gratitude for healing or restoration,or forgiveness for the seemingly unforgiveable. But even more significant (to me at least!), this collection of Psalms is peppered with fear, outrage, anger, distress, agony, hatred, frustration, about life’s tragedies and injustices, all expressed to the Divine.
I have often asked myself why it is that we rarely speak like that to God anymore? Why do Christian communities behave as if God shouldn’t be exposed to our deepest hurts and agonies?” How emotionally or spiritually impoverished have we become as humans because we have silenced our lamentation, denied our deepest doubts, and tamed our jubilation?”
Unfortunately, one answer to these questions lies in our worship habits. The Presbyterian and Anglican denominations have maintained a stronger use of the Psalms in their weekly and daily worship services, but for many in our United Churches, the Psalms are often relegated to a ‘responsive reading’ in between two other Scripture readings, and that ‘reading’ is usually only a truncated portion of the ‘nicer’ psalms. Rarely do we get the chance to use them as poetry, or prayer, or song.
Soooo….!! For five weeks we’ll take this opportunity to discover the complexity, and richness of this spiritual lexicon of honest faith and doubt, dressed in powerful poetry. Expect not just to hear or speak these Psalms, but to ‘taste and see’, and to touch and feel them in worship that will mine the riches to be found in the book of Psalms.
If you’re away on vacation, you can read the posts on this blog, check out the ‘extras’ on the “Summer Psalms” page (click the tab at the top of the screen) AND you can catch up with the sermons on the CPU website at http://www.cedarparkunited.org/category/sermons/.