I love the honesty of the Psalms. I love the poetry of the Psalms. I love how they go ‘off message’ and avoid trite spirituality.
I didn’t like the ‘greatest hits’ approach to the Psalms that seemed to typify chorus writing of my youth and early adulthood (I cannot comment on now): the comfort and ecstasy parts were well sang- in general the lament and off message stuff wasn’t. For me, it led to a disconnect between real life and church life. I need the ecstasy, the comfort, the jubilation, but I also need a balanced diet. They wouldn’t have been easy to sing, but it would have helped me to sing songs of lament without happy endings or songs where I cheerfully wished destruction on those who drive 45mph in the middle lane of a motorway (ok: the nearest parallel I can think of for a middle class westerner in 2013 compared to a 6th century BC near Easterner whose city walls have been demolished).
Even now, in some worship settings I feel like leaving or simply stop singing. Some ecstasy is good. A whole worship time in G makes me feel like I did when my children went to indoor play areas for kids parties: my head hurts and all the sugar makes me feel like I want to lay down. Sometimes shouting louder and ignoring lament and disconnect does not work
I read this, this week. I like the poetry. Literalists of the fundamentalist or atheist variety need read no further. Those who are open to imagery, nuance and poetry of whatever faith perspective, read on.
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbours, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted,and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!