Tuesday, January 27, 2009

8. The Psalm

The Psalm last Sunday caught my attention.

One of the things I like about the Episcopal church is its orderly use of scripture. Four readings every week: Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel, and a Psalm. We follow a three-year cycle called the Revised Common Lectionary and as a musician it is most helpful. I know far in advance what the lessons will be and if I were so inclined I could plan the music today for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, 2025. The lectionary does not skip over difficult passages and it binds the readings together in a meaningful and relevant way. Best of all the preacher of the day can’t prepare a sermon and then go looking for scripture to back it up.

At my church we sing the Psalm on most Sundays when the choir is present. We do this in various ways, from plainchant to Anglican chant to hymntunes. Often the music allows the text to be understood on a deeper level than just words alone. The choir rehearses the Psalm several times and gets to know it well. This week we used a beautiful Simplified Anglican Chant which particularly highlighted the words of the Psalm.

Psalm 139 is about God’s loving creation of all human beings and the complete knowledge God has of each of us. The Psalmist sits in wonder and amazement that God “created my inmost parts; knit me together in my mother’s womb”. And he goes on to thank God, because “I am wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well.” Please understand that I don’t take this literally; in fact I’m not sure I can begin to explain what it means to me. But the idea of a Creator taking the time to know every part of me is humbling.

I have been wondering why this Psalm struck such a chord with me; why I have not been able to get both the music and text out of my head for several days now. Maybe this is at least part of the answer: for some time I have been quite busy as a caretaker; of my parents, my husband, some friends. I do this willingly and freely, even perhaps naturally. But the balance between caring for others and myself can get skewed and this past week was one of those times. Singing that Psalm eased my weariness and filled my depleted spirit. And for that I am truly grateful.

Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17

Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting places
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,
but you, O Lord, know it altogether.
You press upon me behind and before
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

For you yourself created my inmost parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will thank you because I am marvelously made;
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book;
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.

How deep I find your thoughts, O God!
how great is the sum of them!
If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

1 comment:

Sage said...

Ahh, You believe in a Personal God! All roads lead to Rome and your High Church lend hope for a neo-Oxford movement.