You may have listened to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s Psalm 116 when it came up in April 2020.
At that time, moved by the recent loss of American civil rights leader Joseph Lowery, an African-American setting of an old Isaac Watts hymn, I love the Lord, was highlighted.
The song quotes the psalm’s opening lines in which the author, perhaps David, declares that God hears the cries of the faithful when in severe difficulties:
I love God who hears my voice, my supplication; / for God inclines an ear to me whenever I call. (vs. 1, 2)
In the first part of the poem (text>) the writer, having suffered sorely from ‘the grip of the grave’, celebrates divine compassion and sighs in relief that:
God watches over the innocent; I was brought low, and God helped me. (v.6)
So in the second half, the writer asks: “How shall I repay God for all the good things done for me?”
I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of God. (vs. 12, 13)
Despite the palmist’s recent suffering and pain, the song is yet classified as one of the Hallel, or praise psalms; just add YHWH and you get Hallelujah, the last word of the song.
I do not recall ever singing Together in Song 71 at South Woden — I’d have to ask RB to check annotations in his hymn book. TiS here offers a choice of two simple refrains. The verses, almost those of the lectionary (12 to 19), are sung to a double tone.
I love the Lord in Psalms for All Seasons 116D, was referred to in the April 28 post. Another post just three years ago in June 2017 explores classical and modern songs on Psalm 116 in greater detail.
If you watched I love the Lord last April, you may have felt it was a little over the top. However, you surely could not miss the unity in the choir despite the apparent physical diversity of the singers. Demonstrations against racism since then have laid bare our deep-seated prejudices. Regrettable violence has fractured social cohesion in many regions, underlining human weaknesses under stress. And where there is no overt violence, often there are small arrogant gestures or slights, as one of our members in a recent morning tea zoom related about a loved daughter-in-law.
This psalm and others, and a review of that video, reaffirm in our troubled minds the Psalter’s insistence that the Creator founded the universe on principles of love, justice and equity.
O mighty ruler, lover of justice, it was you who established equity. (Ps 99:4)
Joseph Lowery, Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, Eddie and Bonita Mabo and many others shone the spotlight on racism years ago. It seems not to have improved. In every nation and every society including Australia, people are suffering discrimination, oppression or fear if they are ‘different’.
In support of those who are thus bereaved and wounded, we pray for them and us as we sing the same refrain in PFAS 116D at South Woden again this week. Suddenly it seems less OTT. The lectionary verses are added, set to a tone which just repeats the first line of Richard Smallwood’s nicely harmonised song, appearing in full at PFAS 116C:
I love the Lord; he heard my cries,Psalm 116:1 paraphrase, Isaac Watts, 1719
And pitied every groan;
Long as I live, when troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to his throne.
And now this rendition of Psalm 116 by Victoria, as described above: