The merry month of May, with its beautiful autumn leaves and the busy international music festival, departs. Only three weeks to the shortest day of the year when Keith, returning from the wilds of Celtic islands in another hemisphere, will lead a worship service at South Woden at the Winter Solstice. But for this Sunday, it’s the first ten then the last four verses of Psalm 68.
Between bookends at beginning and end of this psalm, consisting of verses of praise for divine power and ubiquity, comes a recitation of providence and caring for the people over the centuries:
Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in a holy habitation. God gives the desolate a home to live in, and leads out the prisoners to prosperity. (vv. 5 and 6)
The psalmist in the ‘bookends’ calls for the great kingdoms of the earth, their flags proudly flying in the national capitals of the world, to recognise the divine supremacy of ‘the rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens’ and invites us to lift songs of thanks and praise.
It’s hard not to link this grand call with verses like those quoted above emphasising care for the needy (v.10), the homeless and the poor who – as that quintessential observer of human nature Jesus observed (Mark 14:7) – regrettably are always with us.
So how does a government, or political or religious group that aspires to govern, honour that call and at the same time deny the homeless, refugee and persecuted; withdraw education and basic rights of freedom to women and girls; or weaken the social safety-net and leave these things to market forces? Our prayer is surely to gain the ideal of governance in the final verse:
Ascribe power to God … whose strength is in the skies. Awesome is the divine, who gives power to the people. (vv. 34, 35)
Each week we try to find the tune and antiphonal response that fits the season and the sense and message of the readings. Each month we try to achieve a balance of styles and participation as well, such as the male voice group (thank you for a fine rendition of Psalm 66 last Sunday) and something in which our children can contribute their enthusiasm and voices.
Sing to God O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God who rides the ancient skies above. (vv 32-33)
The tune is a simple ascending and descending major scale that we shall sing as a round against a simple repetitive harmonic pattern. The congregation sings two parts, part 2 starting at bar 2, while the children repeat just the first phrase in a simpler and more easily learned part.
And for a little more …Well done to our regular fine psalmists who sang the Brahms German Requiem at the Canberra International Music Festival a week ago. What an enjoyable and moving performance. Thank you.
Readers may not recognise five Psalms in the South Singers under the banner of the Festival Choir courtesy their normal role with The Resonants from this rather poorly lit photo. However, you get a sense of the expanse and associated acoustic warmth of the Fitters’ Workshop, venue for many major CIMF concerts. The choir, supported by internationally renowned orchestral musicians, was rich and sonorous.