Psalms

POETRY: Hexameters by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

July 25, 2017

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the Earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the Earth. He [...]

POETRY: Cognitabo Pro Peccato Meo by William Habington

July 18, 2017

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart [...]

POETRY: Psalm III by Allen Ginsberg

July 11, 2017

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1) To God: to illuminate all men. Beginning with Skid Road. Let Occidental and Washington be transformed into a higher place, the plaza of eternity. Illuminate the welders in shipyards with the brilliance of their torches. Let the crane operator lift up his arm for joy. Let elevators creak and speak, ascending and descending in awe. Let the mercy of the flower’s direction beckon in the eye. Let the straight flower bespeak its purpose in straightness—to seek the light. Let the crooked flower bespeak its purpose in crookedness—to seek the light. Let the crookedness and straightness bespeak the light. [...]

POETRY: O Taste And See by Denise Levertov

June 27, 2017

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8) The world is not with us enough. O taste and see the subway Bible poster said, meaning The Lord, meaning if anything all that lives to the imagination’s tongue, grief, mercy, language, tangerine, weather, to breathe them, bite savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh our deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince, living in the orchard and being hungry, and plucking the [...]

POETRY: Rochester Extempore by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

June 20, 2017

Help, Lord; for the Godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.  They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.  The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:  Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?  For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.  The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of Earth, purified seven times.  Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.  The wicked walk on [...]

POETRY: Blessed Is The Man, by Marianne Moore

June 6, 2017

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) who does not sit in the seat of the scoffer— the man who does not denigrate, depreciate, denunciate; who is not “characteristically intemperate,” who does not “excuse, retreat, equivocate; and will be heard.” (Ah, Giorgione! there are those who mongrelize and those who heighten anything they touch; although it may well be that if Giorgione’s self-portrait were not said to be he, it might not take my fancy. Blessed the geniuses who know that egomania is not a [...]

POETRY: Stanzas On The Psalms, by Thomas Warton the Elder

May 24, 2017

Not the songs that nobly tell, How Troy was sacked, and Rome began, Not the numbers that reveal The wars of Heaven to falling man; Can boast that true celestial fire, That equal strength and ease, Or with such various charms conspire, To move, to teach, to please. Those complaints how sadly sweet, White weeping seraphim repeat; Those prayers how happily preferred, Which God himself inspired and heard. Ye partial wits no longer boast Of Pindar’s fire in David’s lost! Who to the Hebrew harp must yield, As Jove by great Jehovah is [...]

POETRY: Psalm 103—Praise The Lord, O My Soul, by Henry Francis Lyte

May 9, 2017

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven; To His feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, Who like thee His praise should sing. Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise the everlasting King. Praise Him for His grace and favour To our fathers in distress. Praise Him still the same for ever, Slow to chide, and swift to bless. Praise Him! Praise Him! Glorious in His faithfulness. Father-like He tends and spares us; Well our feeble frame He knows. In His hands He gently bears us, Rescues us from all our foes. Praise Him! Praise Him! Widely as His mercy flows. Frail as summer’s flower we flourish, Blows the wind and it is gone; But while mortals rise and perish God endures unchanging on, Praise Him, praise Him, Praise Him! Praise [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: My Messy House by Kathleen Norris

March 6, 2017

From: Amazing Grace When I’m working as an artist-in-residence at parochial schools, I like to read the psalms out loud to inspire the students, who are usually not aware that the snippets they sing at Mass are among the greatest poems in the world.  But I have found that when I have asked children to write their own psalms, their poems often have an emotional directness that is similar to that of the Biblical Psalter.  They know what it’s like to be small in a world designed for big people, to feel lost and abandoned.  Children are frequently astonished to discover that the psalmists so freely express the more unacceptable emotions, sadness and even anger, even anger at God, and all of this is in the Bible that they hear [...]

JESUS: Psalm 102, by J. G. Bellett

February 9, 2017

From Short Meditations On The Psalms A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah Jehovah, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me: in the day of my trouble, incline thine ear unto me; in the day I call, answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a firebrand. My heart is smitten and withered like grass; yea, I have forgotten to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my flesh. I am become like the pelican of the wilderness, I am as an owl in desolate places; I watch, and am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop. Mine enemies reproach me all the day; they that are mad against me swear [...]

PSALMS: When It Feels Like God Is Absent, by Daniel F. Polish

February 9, 2017

From Bringing the Psalms to Life During times when our lives resonate with the mood of some psalms, God seems remote and absent to us.  We feel like God has forgotten all about us, or cast us off.  More darkly, we fear that perhaps God even smolders with anger against us.  The psalms make repeated use of the powerful image of God’s face being hidden from us.  Admittedly, today we tend to be uncomfortable with anthropomorphic images that speak of God in terms of human attributes.  Yet this image does strike a chord in us.  It feels to us that God is not merely away, but is holding back from us, hiding.  Like the face of the sun hidden by clouds, or during an eclipse, God’s face feels hidden from us in our time of need. [...]

POETRY: Lord, Hear My Prayer, by John Clare

February 8, 2017

A Paraphrase of Psalm 102 (Originally published on December 27, 2012) Lord, hear my prayer when trouble glooms, Let sorrow find a way, And when the day of trouble comes, Turn not thy face away: My bones like hearthstones burn away, My life like vapoury smoke decays. My heart is smitten like the grass, That withered lies and dead, And I, so lost to what I was, Forget to eat my bread. My voice is groaning all the day, My bones prick through this skin of clay. The wilderness’s pelican, The desert’s lonely owl— I am their like, a desert man In ways as lone and foul. As sparrows on the cottage top I wait till I with fainting drop. I hear my enemies reproach, All silently I mourn; They on my private peace encroach, Against me they [...]

PSALMS: Laments, by Mary Ellen Chase

February 7, 2017

From The Psalms For the Common Reader As John Calvin has already told us, the Psalms are a mirror reflecting all the emotions of the human soul.  We must, therefore, expect to find within them laments for trouble and sorrow, outcries against the slings and the arrows of life.  Moreover, since most of them were written during years of subjection when the very existence of a people was threatened, and since the Hebrews were among all peoples perhaps the most intense and even violent in their emotions, laments were as natural to them as were rejoicings.  There were surely many bitter hours in their long experience when to rejoice was impossible.  They had known invasion, destruction, and death, and the lesser misfortunes of drought, [...]

PSALMS: The Prayer Of An Afflicted Person, by Bruce k. Waltke, James M. Houston, & Erika Moore

February 7, 2017

From The Psalms as Christian Lament PSALM 102: A prayer by an afflicted person when he grows weak and pours out his complaint before “I AM.” “I AM,” hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish in smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted like vegetation and so withers; I forget and depart without eating my food. From the sound of my sobbing, my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl, I have become like a screech owl among ruins. I keep vigil; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; those who are senseless and against me [...]

SATURDAY READING: On How To Study The Psalms Devotionally, by Bruce K. Waltke

June 18, 2016

From The Dance Between God and Humanity At the end of the summer in which our committee translated the Book of Psalms for the New International Version of the Bible, I felt less devoted to God than at the beginning of the summer when we began our assignment.  (No aspersion on the NIV!  I suspect translators of all versions have had a similar experience.  In my judgment the NIV is the best translation available, and I thank God for giving me opportunity to have a small part in it.)  My confession is a wry comment on my depravity and the paradox of faith – God seeking after man and man seeking after God.  Is it not ironic that after tirelessly studying some of the most richly devotional literature of the Bible I came away from the [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 1 — The “Law” Which Gives Life (a meditation) from the Taizé Community

June 16, 2016

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of three to ten people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer. Psalm 1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they [...]

POETRY: Psalm 1— The Two Ways, by Sylvia Purdie

June 16, 2016

I was out walking a farm track one late summer’s day long since the rain had fallen long since, grass had faded to gold I passed a field of crops as the dry wind whipped the struggling plants tossing away earth as dust the plants collapsed and withered I walked on as the path went down winding through willow trees roots deep in search of water Hidden at the bottom of the gully under a small strip of green I found a flowing stream and as I followed it there were fruit trees sheltered from the wind drawing on the water apples hanging bright and full crisp and tangy sweet I live that my life may be surrounded by love inspired by truth sustained by Spirit bearing fruit season by season What does it take? What choices must I make? What advice [...]

POETRY: Idiot Psalm 10, by Scott Cairns

June 15, 2016

—a psalm of Isaak, breathed beneath the chirp of evening swallows O Hidden Hand upholding all wrought works now flourishing before us, O Mad Architect of exuberant abundance, of flora both sweet and acrid, and lo, of all furred fauna frolicking the field, both the mild and the less so, baring tooth and claw and, lo, so often leaving in their wake so many tufts of plumage, tattered fur. O Great Zookeeper attending all such critters in Your ken, both microscopic and immense, the countless little fishes, our dear array of water mammals, yea, and this our great and lumbering leviathan fathoms deep, invisible. O Most Secret Agent of our numberless occasions, please also mitigate the ache attending all of the above. [...]

PRAYER: Praying The Psalms — Part Two , by Roland E. Murphy

June 14, 2016

From The Psalms Are Yours We conclude, then, that there are both continuities and discontinuities in the relationship of the Old Testament to the New.  Since the Christian rightly believes that the New is the fulfillment (but not the eradication or supplanting) of the Old, there is a natural temptation to neglect the Old.  The ideal is to seek a balance between continuity and discontinuity, or, better, to seek out the continuities which make the Old Testament truly God’s word to the Christian.  Not too long ago Rudolph Bultmann denied continuity, in the sense that he denied that the Old Testament was God’s word for a Christian.  Rather, the Old Testament was bankrupt.  Only existentially, from a human point-of-view, might [...]

PRAYER: The Way Of the Righteous And The End Of The Ungodly by Lori Jones

June 14, 2016

From The Gift of Psalms Psalm 1 1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. There are few [...]

PRAYER: Praying The Psalms — Part One , by Roland E. Murphy

June 13, 2016

From The Psalms Are Yours The previous considerations of this introduction have had a particular purpose; they are oriented toward an enjoyable and productive praying of the psalms.  They provide background and hopefully some insights into prayers that seem to be so different from our modern style.  The discussion of interpretive approaches and of literary genres is meaningful only if it has contributed to the understanding of these psalms.  For we cannot pray what we do not understand.  Again we raise the caution that prayer is not learned by a set of rules or by pure information; the way of the Spirit of God has its own shortcuts.  But all things being equal, the lessons of history in interpreting and praying the psalms are not to [...]

PSALMS: Prayer Of Praise by Bruce Prewer

June 13, 2016

(inspired by Psalm 1) Psalm 1 1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. You, loving God, are [...]

POETRY: Lament Psalm Sixteen, by Ann Weems

July 1, 2015

O God, will this night never end? Give me sleep, O God! Give me rest! Erase from my memory the moments of his death. Blot out the terror and the ever-present fear and let me sleep. I lie upon this bed tortured by thoughts that come unbidden. The night is full of demons. They stand upon my heart until I cannot breathe. There is nothing in my world this night except his death. O God, bring the morning light. Is it not enough that he is dead? That there is nothing I can do to change what is? Must I spend each night revisiting the unlit corridors of death? O God, be merciful! Bring the dawn! Come into this night and tear it into day! O my God, you are hope. You take the bonds of death and break them into pieces of life. The demons of the night [...]

PRAYER: Sacred Prayers Drawn From The Psalms Of David, by Peter Martyr Vermigli

November 11, 2014

From Psalm 42 There is none, O almighty God, who has really studied your goodness who does not pant and aspire for you night and day, like a stag who is dying from thirst.  How could it happen that anyone endowed with true faith should not hasten to the living God?  But so far that eagerness has been very slack in us, nor have we sought you, as was right, by good faith in holy assemblies.  Because of our sadness and trouble, tears have become for us our food and drink in these difficult times, and enemies far and wide mock the church and say: “Where is their God?”  But we beg you, O God, since you are merciful and kind, to put aside your anger which you have rightly conceived against us and, mindful of your promises, grant [...]

SERMON: Going To Church In The Psalms, by Mark Love

July 20, 2014

My assignment tonight is “The Character of God in the Psalms.”  Which is a little like speaking on the subject, “Everything That’s Wrong with the Detroit Tigers.”  Where would you start?  Where would you end?  Pitching, defense, hitting, minor leagues, coaching?  This assignment is daunting. Still, I’m up to the challenge.  Ready?  God is Yahweh, El Shaddai, Elohim, a mighty tower, a rock, a fortress.  Our God is a stronghold, a sure defense.  The Lord of Hosts is a horn of salvation.  The Lord is our light, a warrior, a king, a shepherd, a mother, a vinedresser.  God is an avenger and a healer.  A protector, creator, destroyer.  The Lord is lawgiver and judge, a forger of weapons and their [...]

SERMON: Greed, Grace, And Gratitude — An Approach to Preaching the Psalms by J. Clinton McCann, Jr.

June 1, 2014

From Performing the Psalms My approach in this essay is explicitly theological.  In its most basic sense, theology means thinking about God.  So, as I interpret the Psalms for preaching, I am constantly looking for a word from and about God and God’s will for the world.  More specifically, my working definition of theology is borrowed from David Tracy, who suggests that doing theology means thinking about religion culturally and thinking about culture religiously.  Or, as I like to paraphrase, Tracy, theology is thinking about God and God’s claim on the world in the context of where we find ourselves every day. As contemporary North Americans, where we find ourselves every day is in the midst of an extremely affluent culture in [...]

SILENCE: The Silence Of The Psalms, by Thomas Merton

April 3, 2014

From Bread In The Wilderness One thing remains to be explained, we have emphasized, in this book, the truth that the Psalms most often become contemplation when, through them, we manage to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, so that he in turn lifts us up in his own triumph and raises us to a foretaste of his glory.  Why this emphasis on suffering?  Suffering is not the only theme in the Psalter. We bring the substance of our own lives to the Psalter and offer it to Christ to be transformed by him.  It is all matter for sacrifice.  But since life on Earth is what it is, we all have plenty of trouble, plenty of suffering, plenty of misery.  We have our joys too.  And we should not omit to offer them to Christ and [...]

SATURDAY READING: “The Lord Is A Warrior,” by Jerome F. D. Creach

March 15, 2014

From Violence in Scripture In Genesis 1 and 2, God is as open to the creation as one who invites participation by the elements in the creative process.  This view of God, in turn, has direct bearing on the understanding of humankind as made in “the image of God,” (1:26-27).  The absence of war and coercive action is at the center of the nature of God and of God’s intention for humankind.  With this picture of God and creation the book of Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.  This will become apparent, among other places, in the exodus story.  What may seem at first glance simply a story of liberation from slavery in which God battles an historical ruler, the pharaoh of Egypt, is actually an account of a contest [...]

SATURDAY READING: Psalm 42 — The Torn Soul, by Edward Feld

October 19, 2013

From Joy, Despair, and Hope: Reading Psalms Psalm 27 is a poem of increasing disintegration: its penultimate thought expresses the felt absence of God even as its ending articulates a faithful expectation and hope.  This swing of emotions is imitated in Psalm 42.  Like many other psalms, it does not trace a movement in a single direction but rather gives voice to a balancing of emotions; self-doubt and turmoil and expressed alongside faithful declarations, and this turmoil becomes the explicit subject of the psalm.  We are party to an inner dialogue in which the poet constantly moves back and forth, enunciating a yearning for God on one hand, and despair as to his condition on the other.  Readers understand that we are confronting the [...]

POETRY: Seven Penitential Psalms, by V. Penelope Pelizzon

March 27, 2013

1 Pain’s first casualty is proportion. So my brother, juror in a child pornography trial, Browses my shelves while the Easter lamb roasts And, coming on Weston’s nudes of his son Paired with a text describing how Neil at eight Is “moulded with reedlike flow of unbroken line” — The exposures framed so the torso, Pentelic marble, Ends with arm buds and the stem of the penis — Slams the book and storms out, Shaken that I own such things. 2 The damaged man licking sauce from his spoon — Why do I feel stricken sitting in the same café, Watching his unbridled relish in the mess? He’s showing me a secret I don’t want to see. The toughest shell conceals the tenderest meat. My friend rejects aids to help [...]