Psalm 105(2), 9 Aug 20

Cover of the 1565 Huguenot Psalter, Les Pseaumes mis en rime, music by French composer Claude Goudimel

Just two weeks later, up pops Psalm 105 again. We hear again the first 6 verses, which are common to all four occurrences of this psalm through to September. This opening section invites a song of praise in response to divine guidance and intervention.

This week, the reading then cuts to verses 17 to 22 which, like the first OT Lectionary reading this week from Genesis, tells how Joseph was sold into servitude in Egypt, eventually to be released and put in charge of the royal possessions and household. The family followed him, and lived as repressed refugees for many seasons.

Hearers or singers of the psalm centuries ago would have known in great detail the story from Genesis and thus would have felt the shafts of empathy for Jacob deep in their hearts. From this short psalm selection, we don’t get the full detail. So it’s easy to gloss over the fact that Abraham’s extended family lived the tough life of refugees. The tale is one of hope and trust, taking their viewpoint rather than that of a repressive, resentful, entitled host country. A good reminder for today. Borders may have closed but many thousands are still stranded.

Whereas Psalm 105 celebrates the eventful story and eventual liberation of the chosen people of Abraham, the very next psalm shows the other, darker side of the coin. The writer bemoans the failures and lack of faith of these people, leaving them at the end in Babylonian Exile rather than Exodus to the Promised Land. These and other psalms continue to celebrate divine faithfulness despite such weakness.

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The recorded song in South Woden’s online service will repeat the version heard on 26 July. For all four occurrences of Psalm 105, it includes that opening section and a few key verses from the other Lectionary brackets, using the following short refrain:

Two weeks ago the listening moment for Psalm 105 was provided by Confitemini Domino by Lassus. For a different style, try this nice music for the Renaissance – and Reformation – Genevan setting. (See illustration above.) In the 16th century most Calvinist churches would sing this in unison. Claude Goudimel (c.1520-72) presents harmonised four-part arrangements. He published editions with the tune in both the tenor and soprano or treble cantus part.

You need to look up your own words, the originals being of course in French. Goudimel used the translations of the psalms written about 1540 by Clément Marot, thereby extending their influence. Marot (1496-1544) was a French court poet, who had earlier attended and versified on the royal tourneys at the Fields of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. His life, about which more is known than that of Goudimel, was sprinkled variously with royal favour, imprisonment, praise, argument and relocations under religious and political pressure. One of these moves brought him to Geneva and contact with the Calvinist Reformation psalter.

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