May Day has relatively recently become a day for the workers. Originally it just celebrated the coming of the northern hemisphere spring, bonfires at the end of April, singing and dancing. Such revelry is somewhat akin to what we have been hearing over several recent psalms — relief from the winter of oppression and conflict, safety after threat, peace after conflict.
Psalm 67 also calls for singing and dancing, maypole or not. However, there’s no lamentation here. [No maypole photos either, but I was reminded of a surprise encounter with some street art of an aerial ballet in Prague a few years ago.]
The psalmist calmly calls for blessings and praise:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah (vv. 1-4)
This short psalm (quite reminiscent of the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24ff) is in a mirror structure, beginning and ending with a prayer for blessing. Equity, guidance — and singing — nestle in the middle, verse 4.
It is surrounded in the lectionary by readings from Acts, John and Revelation, almost as if it is a song of praise offered to all the people mentioned in those tales:
- Lydia in Philippi listening to Paul
- The disciples hearing Jesus: “Peace I leave with you”
- A sick main at the pool in Jerusalem, hoping for and finding healing
- People in the city of God with its river of life, no need of lamp nor sun
The eye-catcher here is Tallis‘s Canon, for ‘meane, countertenor, tenor and bass’, from The Whole Psalter Translated by Archbishop Parker, 1567. Catchy because it’s a well known round All praise to thee, my God, this night — but demanding to present with full harmony.
However, as we welcome good friend Rev Vicky Cullen (members of The Gospel Folk will remember from country visits some years ago), we turn to a simpler but pretty refrain by Isaac Everett from The Emergent Psalter. Guess what? Also a round, and can be sung like an Aaronic blessing upon each other. Music download here>. The paraphrased verses are sung antiphonally by a small group (Roll up, roll up!) using the same tune.
Image of Tallis’s canon: www.katapi.org.uk. Note the tune is initially in the tenor, a common contemporary practice. Image of refrain music from The Emergent Psalter by Isaac Everett.