I follow daily Bible readings as part of a pattern of Morning Prayer. There is always one or more Psalms included.
I often struggle with the psalms. They are a great resource in worship and theology, but to be frank I don’t often find having set psalms very helpful. BUT today’s psalms were very interesting. The first was Psalm 88. A real favourite of mine, despite, or because of, it’s unremitting bleakness! And it all appears to be God’s fault:
You have laid me in the lowest pit …
Lord, why have you rejected my soul?
Why have you hidden your face from me?
The only hope in the Psalm is that the person is still speaking to God, even if it’s only to complain!
The second was Psalm 95 which begins:
O come let us sing to the Lord;
let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving
and be glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God …
So can we imagine someone coming up to the person who’s lamenting in Psalm 88, and inviting him or her to join in a hymn of praise? We might expect a shirty answer… The Book of Proverbs has a comment on this sort of situation:
Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on a wound,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
So it was very interesting to have the two psalms placed one after another. In one sense it seems completely insensitive. In another way, turning our sorrow into joy is what God does. One example is Psalm 30 which speaks of crying out to God and being heard and healed:
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
What jarred for me, was that the joyful psalm came immediatelyafter the lament. No period of transition. Maybe that gets to the heart of this. The transition from sorrow to joy is not guaranteed – at least in this life. I’m sure it’s right to praise God out of the depths, to call to mind his goodness and provision even when we aren’t experiencing much of that. But we often need to sit patiently alongside people in pain and wait …
When I look at the heading for today’s Morning Prayer it is a celebration of two martyrs in Rome in the late 3rdcentury – Crispin and Crispinian. It seems they were tortured and beheaded for their Christian faith and for helping the poor. For many faithful folk today, the goodness of God is believed in, but its not always something they feel able to talk about or want to sing about …
With faith, hope and love