Performing the Psalms: Thoughts on A Book
On July 25 a backhoe operator spotted a highly unlikely object buried in the mud. Amazingly it turned out to be a leather bound codex of the Psalms dating to between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000. Here is a news link if you missed the story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14030255/ The discovery is testimony to how important the Psalter has always been to God's People, even in the nadir of the "dark ages" the Psalms guided the faithful.
Psalms is among my canon within a canon. I read the entire book every month allowing its cadences and rhythm's to mould and shape my worldview (hopefully!). Over a period of time this has also pushed my conception of the faith to a more gritty and earthy comprehension. In my preaching and teaching I have tried to share my appreciation of the Psalms with others. As I plan out my sermon calendar I always include a series from the Psalter.
As I have studied the Psalms I have read and purchased a number of books. Indeed now have nearly a shelf of books related to nothing but the Psalms. Among my favorites are William Holladay's A Cloud of Witness: The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years; Bernard W. Anderson's Out of the Depths; Walter Brueggemann's The Message of the Psalms; and J. Clinton McCann's Psalms as Torah: A Theological Introduction to the Psalms.
I recently read another book that is rising in my esteem called Performing the Psalms, eds. Dave Bland and David Fleer (Chalice Press, 2005). If you are a preacher, and a lover of the Psalms, this is a book for you. Both Brueggemann and McCann have very insightful chapters in the book (WB's article on Psalms as Narrative Performance is worth the book alone). Dr. John Mark Hicks has a rich introduction to the laments and why they matter to us today. The book has a number of sermons as well that take into account the "coaching" from these biblical scholars. One such sermon, by Mark Love, is based on Ps 89 and is called "Going to Church in the Psalms." It is magnificent.
The book as a whole invites us a ministers of God's Good News to construct an alternative vision (or reality) with the material of the Psalms. An alternative world that is fundamentally God oriented that ironically invites us to be "truly" human. To be as human as God created us to be.
This is a book I will be coming back to. It is a book that has earned a right to be on my shelf rather than in my give away box.