Songs of the Soul: A Lenten Journey through the Psalms

Songs of the Soul: A Lenten Journey through the Psalms

A Sacred Narrative

Throughout the ages the Psalms have been a helpful resource for conversation with God about the things in our lives and faith that matter most. Originally crafted as hymns to be used in the communal and individual worship life of ancient Israelite’s, they provide a glimpse into the sacred narrative between God and God’s people. These conversations cover the entire spectrum between profound praise and unspeakable anger and doubt. Martin Luther concluded that the Psalms articulated the whole gospel of God in a nutshell. John Calvin said they are an “anatomy of the soul,” fully articulating every facet of the cost and joy of a life with God. There has always been a strong connection between music and faith. The psalms were written over a span of five centuries, starting in the 5th century BCE. They were songs written for every festival and ritual in a place and time where religion, faith and life were intertwined in a way that is hard to fathom.

One Book. Many Categories.

There are 150 Psalms in total included in the Old Testament. They are split into 5 books (1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150) and each book ends with a doxology (Ps 41: “Blessed by the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, amen”). Within these five books we discover ten categories of Psalms. Hymns of Praise like Psalm 100: Make a joyful noise to the Lord! Thanksgiving Hymns, Psalm 32: Be glad you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord. Psalms of Individual Lament: Psalm 51: Have mercy on me, O’ God, according to your steadfast love! Community Laments like Psalm 126: Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy! Wisdom Psalms, Psalm 1: Happy are they who do not follow the advice of the wicked. Trust Songs, Psalm 27: In the day of trouble, God will give me shelter. Royal Psalms of the King, Psalm 132: O’ Lord remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured. Zion Hymns, Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Finally, the Royal Psalms of God as King – like Psalm 29: “The voice of the Lord is powerful!”

Orientation. Disorientation and Reorientation

Theologian Walter Brueggemann describes the Psalms as the most crucial resource for a conversation with God. He divides the Psalms into three simple categories: Psalms of Orientation, Disorientation and Reorientation. Psalms of Orientation describe and articulate the joy, delight, goodness and reliability of God, creation and God’s law (i.e. Trust psalms). Psalms of Disorientation focus on seasons where we experience hurt, alienation, suffering and death. These psalms describe our times in the darkest valleys. Psalms of Reorientation describe the turns and twists of life when we are overwhelmed by good fortune, joy and love. These songs speak of the beauty of coming back into a right relationship with God. Brueggemann describes how we move in a continuous cycle between these three categories in our lives of faith. This is the journey we will be on this Lenten season and we invite you to come and listen, to learn and to worship these “Songs of the Soul.”

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