Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Sometime in 2007 I accepted an invitation to do a seminar on the Psalms for a mid-Atlantic state. Psalms has always been among a handful of "favorite" books of mine in the Bible. I have read them and prayed them and studied them ... not always in that order. I was caught by the grittiness of the Psalms. But more often than not, I wasn't quite brave enough to embrace their white-hot passion. Still they appealed to me.
It is ironic that one of the planned talks received the title "Night: Finding God in the Darkness." I have had a few tough moments in my life but for the most part I have had a rather "easy" life comparatively speaking. But I have completely new "insight" into the Psalms that I never had before. When hell decided to nuke that which was by far the most important thing in my life I suddenly experienced something I had never experienced before. Suddenly I understand why nearly half of the "Book of Praises" is really laments! If God is King then why all the bs in the world and in our lives?? Do we really grasp what it means to "praise Yahweh?"
Some feel that to acknowledge pain and suffering is actually to deny faith. Brueggemann confesses: "I think that serious religious use of the lament psalms has been minimal because we have believed that faith does not mean to acknowledge and embrace negativity. We have thought that acknowledgment of negativity was somehow an act of unfaith ..." But life is full of disequilibrium and incoherence.
Sometimes insight can come from the most unlikely of places. I have been a fan of U2 since 1983. They used to just have great music, now I know they have substance. Bono, lead singer of the band, wrote an Introduction to the book of Psalms. For him David is the "Elvis of the Bible." After being jaded by both "religion" and life Bono makes this statement about the Psalms,,
Abandonment and displacement are the stuff of my favourite psalms. The Psalter may be a font of gospel music, but for me it's despair that the psalmist really reveals and the nature of his special relationship with God. Honesty, even to the point of anger. "How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?" (Psalm 89), or "Answer me when I call" (Psalm 5).
Bono confesses that it was the Psalms that helped save his faith in God. Not because of content but through experiencing them..
Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do -- they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, girls, my mates, the way in to my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result, the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John...My religion could not be fiction, but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical."
The Psalms are the Blues. Hear the Blues from Psalm 80
Stir up your might, and come to save us!
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 the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies
laugh among themselves. (80. 2b-6)
Do you hear it? Can you feel it? I have lived it! They give God's people the language to express rage, frustration and dismay over the vandalism of shalom experienced in our lives, our churches, and our families. The Psalms do what "solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do -- they introduced me to God." Perhaps this is the greatest treasure of all from the Psalms. We are not introduced to more doctrine but to God himself. Through the Psalms we experience truth that exceeds logic! The Psalms are one of the great treasures of the Hebrew Bible.
Read more of Bono here
Just some ramblings today ...