Friday 11th September

The Psalms remixed.

 

We’ve all been inspired by the reflections that Rev’d John has brought over the last few days on the Psalms. There is a richness in this collection of writings which fits most occasions with many different types of psalm; teaching, praise, history, God’s people, imprecation, messianic prophesy, penitence, thanksgiving, songs of ascent and of course suffering & Lament. The psalmists wrote hymns of praise, cries for help & rescue and then songs to commemorate deliverance.

 

When I started looking at the Psalms, I should not have been surprised how much of the New Testament relies on and refers to verses we find in these 150 poems,…… but I was. We think of the gospel writers and the authors of the epistles borrowing verses from the Prophets. We read sections from Isaiah & the minor prophets at Christmas, Joel is centre stage at Pentecost and Isaiah again pops up at Easter. But in this mix of quotes and alluding, the Psalms are reprised over 90 times. In spite of the writers of the daily lectionary seeming to have a Psalm 119 fixation, this longest of all the psalms is one of the least quoted. Top of the charts for the New Testament writers are Psalm 22 with at least 5 citations and Psalm 69 with at least 6.

 

But what are these post resurrection writers seeing in this great book of poetry? Quite simply, they see Jesus. For Matthew, John, & Mark recording Peter’s thoughts, they recognise the person that they walked with, talked with, ate with, laughed with & cried with. They had seen through the lens of the psalmists work the Messiah in Jesus. John writes in chapter 2 that “His disciples remembered that it is written…..”, and then what does he quote? Psalm 69:9.

 

It is Psalm 22, written by David which preludes the gospel accounts of Easter. It is this psalm which explores the Psalmists desperation and lament at the apparent absence of God in his situation. But also projected is the anguish to come for the Messiah, as he is so cruelly crucified, yet even in that moment of despair, there is praise.

 

Praise is another theme which the New Testament writers borrow from the Psalms. There is the obvious quoting of verses, but more subtly we see a new style of psalm-writing emerging in the Epistles. Read Philippians 2:6-11 or Colossians 1:15-20, the fledgling church is exploring new ‘hymns’ of praise that are now so blatantly Christ centred. Intercessions and petitions, a strong theme of the psalmist seeps into early church worship as well in verses such as Romans 1:8, Philippians 4:6 & 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. These traditions have lasted the millennia and are treasured parts of our worship today.

 

There is a piece missing, however, which the early church writers possibly never thought we may need again; the Lament. Even when writing about the terrible suffering believers endured for their faith under the Roman Empire, Peter encourages those who risk their very lives rather than joins in a mutual God-search. But here we are in the 21st Century, we look back at Christian history, we may reflect on the world around us and the condition of the western church today, and in some ways, can be forgiven if we cry out “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1).

 

That is a nice segway into a fantastic video clip for today. I’m fairly sure I have not shared this before with you all. It is a short film of the famous Bible scholar and author of the Message Bible, Eugene Peterson, meeting with the lead singer of one of the greatest pop/rock bands, Bono of U2; a group who have quoted bible passages many times in their songs (I’ve a list if you are interested in a pop based bible study, just email me for a copy). One of their songs, “40” is a remix of Psalm 40 and is usually sung at the end of most of their concerts. These two allow us to listen in as they discuss their mutual love of the Psalms and what these ancient writings mean to them today. So click below and enjoy, it’s a good one:

 

Eugene Peterson meets Bono.


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