Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Psalm Literacy

Our 25-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, is a university grad but she returned to school last Fall to participate in a graphic arts program. She enjoys the creative challenge and the assignments are often unorthodox. Recently a teacher asked them to come up with some inventive illustrations for the 23rd psalm, citing it as a poem outside their usual experience.

Jocelyn was surprised that a number of students complained that this was pushing religion down their throats, even though the teacher didn't really say anything about the faith aspect of the psalm. She was also intrigued to see their efforts, which leaned heavily on lambs and the baby Jesus!

As we have been studying the psalms here at St. Paul's during the past few weeks it has struck me that we can develop a psalm vocabulary over time, although that happens less and less in churches as we move away from the regular inclusion of a psalm in worship. We have been including the psalm on Sunday mornings during Lent as a companion to our study, but we don't do this often. As I have read psalms in preparation I have been moved by many of them and disturbed by some. As always, preparing for studies makes me focus and I have enjoyed this look at the psalms.

Do you have favorite psalms? Do you struggle with biblical literacy generally? Are there psalms you like to sing?


IanD said...

I first became really aware of the psalms when the 23rd was read at my grandmother's funeral back in 1996. I've since read them all, and would have to agree that they can be moving, suprising and even funny at times.

As for Jocelyn's experience, and the comment about "religion being rammed down (their) throats," I take exception to that. Sounds like an old school case of knee-jerk reactionism to me.

Anonymous said...

I have several favourite psalms. No matter what you believe about who we are and how we got here, the psalms cover the entire human repetoire of emotion available to us. They can get pretty gritty, but they don't lie, and they don't apologise for the intensity of it all.

lionlamb said...

We will include the 23rd psalm in the funeral tomorrow. Such a comforting passage of scripture.

You're right about the "entire human repertoire of emotion." It's all there in the psalter, without apology.