The community we have been worshiping with on Sunday nights, Eucharist, is about to launch a series on the psalms. Here are some slightly modified reflections I put together for the weekly newsletter on reading the psalms as part of the larger story of scripture:
“Let my whole being bless the Lord! Let everything inside me bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1, CEB).
This verse captures one of the most crucial dynamics of the psalms. We enter into the presence of God, and with all that we are we join in praise to the God who is worthy of glory and honor.
But if you delve deeper into the psalms, you discover that this is only one section of a much larger canvass.
The psalms are not only about me, they are about us. We come together to sing praises to God as a people with whom God has made covenant. The plurality of our voices is one dynamic that makes our praise acceptable before God. God sees and hears us as a people whose voices come together as one in order to express the oneness that we have as God’s people in Christ.
But even putting our individual praise within the chorus of God’s people does not take in enough of the picture. Because God is the God of all creation. Our songs are embedded in a cosmic drama that includes the harmony of nature and the praise of angelic host as well.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this cosmic song is that, often, we are given the lead. In our songs we not only praise God, but call one another to sing; we call the other people of the earth to sing with us; and we even call the heavenly host to join in our praise.
We, human beings, are given the role of calling the angelic host to praise the God in whose presence they stand day and night.
Read through the psalms and you’ll see a lot of this cosmic picture. So what happens to this great, majestic chorus when we recognize that all is not right with the world?
In songs of lament, we not only remind the earthly and heavenly creatures to render to God what God is due, but we actually remind God to faithfully care for the world that God has created and to look after the people who bear God’s image.
In the psalms, all the world, in all its facets, is lifted up in song before the face of God. And this includes not only its wonders, but even its brokenness.