Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the imagery in the psalms

I love the psalms, for those who haven't noticed.  They, like others in our "poetry" category are truly the art of our Bible.  In Hebrew the Psalms read much more like poetry with a meter and lovely flow.  Many of the translators have tried to keep that flow and we can see and feel that when we turn to the psalms.  Another reason I like the psalms is because of the real emotion that is expressed within. The psalmist can be angry with God, in love with God, awed by God and in fear of God.  The psalmist comes with every human emotion and turns to God. 

Most psalms fall into three categories: (this is coming from Walter Brueggemann's widely accepted division of the psalms) orientation, disorientation and reorientation.  Some psalms have all three aspects in one.
Orientation psalms are the psalms that speak to the ordinaries of life.  The every day, the glorious sun the several reminders that we need to "Shout to the Lord" a new song.  Much of these psalms are psalms of praise.  It is in the orientation that we are setting up the "normal"  You can read Psalm 1, 37 , 111 and 131 for examples.

Disorientation then is when the psalmist is in distress or confused. When life isn't as orderly - which is often.  Here we see lines like "My God, My God why have you forsaken me."  You can read 13, 50, 88 for examples.

Reorientation then is when in the psalm we are bringing ourselves back to the normal...back to God. Examples are 23, 66, 100, 150.  They are often full of thanks. 

We see this in this weeks reading: "In you, O LORD, I take refuge;let me never be put to shame.In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;incline your ear to me and save me.Be to me a rock of refuge,a strong fortress, to save me,for you are my rock and my fortress." Psalm 71: 1-3 

At the beginning we see what seems to be a bit of disorientation and with the vivid language of the psalm we hear the psalmist ask God to incline his ear and to save him.  And then in the next line we see the psalm come out of the stress and disorientation and into reorientation - how God is their rock and fortress.

Depending where we are in life - there is a psalm for us!

Every time we have a life event we move through these cycles of orientation - disorientation and reorientation for we are changed people and our relationship with God is different - hopefully for the better. 

There are several monk orders that try to pray all the psalms in a week.  They pray at the scared hours (7 times a day) that is a big undertaking and I'm not suggesting that we tackle such a task but I do think that starting your day off with a psalm can be inspiring and send you on your own path to new and deeper relationship with the Divine.  For there is something truly settling in knowing that your struggles in life are not only shared by the psalmist but that they were these are universal struggles, struggles that Jesus came to know in his own humanity and struggles that God is willing to incline an ear to hear.  So sit back and send up your prayers knowing, believing and trusting that God is indeed listening.