Psalm 146, 5 June 2016

IMG_3012An article in the local paper today tells me that polls — in Australia at least, though I do not doubt that readers in other countries will nod in agreement — are revealing a loss of confidence in governance. Part of that is due to perceived weaknesses in both national leaders and opposing aspirants.

People are, in this respect at least, doing just what Psalm 146 recommends:

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish (vs. 3, 4)

There’s a second reason why people might follow this psalm. It’s suffused with calls for equity and justice for all people, a situation that is certainly not being provided by current leadership and governments. Many would be delighted to see a social, community, health, justice and financial structure that:

Image: Wikimedia commons

executes justice for the oppressed; gives food to the hungry; sets the prisoners free; opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down; loves the righteous; watches over the strangers; upholds the orphan and the widow (vs. 7 – 9)

Sounds very much like Jesus quoting Isaiah in Luke 4:18. I am compelled to insert that image of the scales of justice again. It appears in so many posts (sometimes I have used a different image of the scales) as an indicator of how often this theme leaps out of the psalms at us, contrasting with the reality we see about us and challenging us to work harder for outcomes based on love rather than selfish interests.

However, that’s probably as far as the parallel goes. Indeed in governance terms, separation between church and state is good insurance against these human weaknesses. The average voter is not likely to take it a step further by praising a divine spirit who promises that all these things are a fundamental part of creation, and therefore of humankind however compromised.  The song finishes with a system of governance for that purpose, in which “God shall reign forever, for all generations. Praise God!” (v.10)

Music

Hymns (we prefer antiphonals) on this theme are manifold. TiS 90 is the old favourite (1719) hymn by Isaac Watts, I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath. Regrettably, we cannot quite muster the time and resources this Sunday to introduce a nice piece à4 by Lassus, Lauda anima mea,Ps146Lauda

let alone his longer setting à6 under a similar title.

Antiphonal settings often feature refrains full of Hallelujahs. Why? The final handful of psalms from 146 to 150 are songs of praise, all starting and finishing with a ringing Hallelujah – praise YHWH. That last line in verse 10 quoted above is just one example.

  • Everett in TEP emphasises this as well as the prince thing and its alternative.
  • Psalms for all Seasons includes three hymns (146A, sure enough, is the Watts hymn) as well as 146B with Taizé refrain. Note also the alternate Refrains 1 (traditional Muscogee Creek Indian) and 2 (Indonesian, in Phrygian mode) for interest and additional tempting musical experiences.

At South Woden … we shall sing  146B which uses a refrain from Taizé. These lovely songs by Jacques Berthier (1923-1994) thrive on simple harmonies, so on Sunday we enjoy another such musical offering from our small but enthusiastic band of Singers in the South. Verses will again be antiphonal, one voice taking the first part of each verse, the chorus responding with the tone set in PFAS. Words on DropboxAll singers welcome.

 

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