Psalm 145, 6 Aug 17

For comment on the primary psalm reading for this week, see a previous post on Psalm 17

Thank you so much to our male voice quintet who presented Psalm 105 last Sunday. What lovely sounds. We hear the same refrain, with different verses, in coming Sundays.

Antiphon after the last verse of Ps 145; then Ps 146:1 ‘Lauda anima mea’. Note change from C to F clef at response. The Howard Psalter, British Lib. MS 83, f.89r

Psalm 145, the alternative reading for this week, is the last of the many songs attributed to David, and the first of a closing bracket of six songs of praise. The central theme is the ultimate sovereignty of God. However, each time the psalm appears in the Lectionary – five times in all but mostly as a complementary reading – different verse selections offer different points of emphasis; praise to a great power, grace, faithfulness, love and even the matter of food on the table:

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. / You open your hand, satisfying the need of every living thing. (verses 15, 16)

So there is a time for lamentation, and a time for lamingtons. Many psalms cater for both moments. As well as the greatness of divine purposes, the power of love and that recurrent theme of justice are celebrated in this song (17).

The psalms also convey a sense of freedom from burdens, an interesting undercurrent detected in the third century CE by commentator and theologian Hippolytus of Rome, who opined:

David gave the Hebrews psalmody. This abrogated Moses’ sacrificial system and introduced a new form of jubilant praise.

Several of the classical arrangements, such as those by Lassus and Gibbons, start with verse 15 quoted above. In modern sources:

  • TEP and PFAS 145D reflect the main theme of Psalm 145, namely praise for divine sovereignty and grace.
  • In NCH, Vérne de la Peña from the Philippines University meditates on God’s ‘wondrous works’, employing both simple tune and pleasing harmonies. [This refrain, with paraphrased verses to the same or a similar tune, will be used in South Woden this week.]
  • A local composition presents a vehicle for both verses and response, depending on which selection is set:

Psalm 114,14 Sep 14

Einstein wohnhausWith numbers in mind after a visit to Albert Einstein’s house, I’m idly noticing the detail that Psalm 114 is sung on the 14th and Psalm 124 was on the 24th.

Well, it doesn’t look like any of Albert’s brilliance rubbed off! So forget the coincidences and note instead that this psalm contains characteristically powerful historical imagery including the Red Sea rolling back, hills skipping like sheep and water flowing from a rock.Forceful water

It was the descriptions of natural forces, soaring mountains, powerful rushing waters and raw energy that resonated with Hon. Webmaster in Berne, watching the unstoppable rush of melting snow coursing wildly down from the Alps into the Aare River.

It looks peaceful enough in the photo above: close up you can feel the weight of that fast flow on its long journey to the Rhine and thence to the North Sea. The evident power of disturbed water must have rather unnerved the children of Israel making the Red Sea crossing, as much later the storms on the Sea of Galilee did the disciples.

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the God of Jacob (v. 7)

These same ideas are reflected in Psalm 76:

At your rebuke, God of Jacob, both horse and chariot lie still.  From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet [or trembled] when you, God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land. (Ps. 76: 7-10)

Incidentally, there’s great short Offertory motet for Easter Sunday called Terra tremuit (the earth trembled) by William Byrd (c 1540-1623) that is best sung invested with dramatic energy during the trembling bits.

Meanwhile, over in the Exodus reading we hear this:Timbrels

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.

And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to God who has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider were thrown into the sea.” (Ex. 15: 20, 21)

This suggests that a good approach would be to celebrate with our children by dancing with Miriam, timbrel in hand. There’s plenty to celebrate; the images in the psalm suggest many ideas, such as the beauty and energy of the natural environment and the freedoms we enjoy. This can be done to any lively music of course, but one suggestion is the African-American spiritual, Glory hallelujah since I laid my burdens down (New Century Hymnal 2).

Other suggestions for music for 14 September appear as usual in Singing from the lectionary — only a few this week but PFAS 114C might be of interest. Others were made in the last Crystal Ball post.

Thanks so much to singers of Lassus’ Psalm 105 last Sunday. A great contribution and I’m sure it was delectable. (In response to my inquiry, one singer said ‘Seemed to go well — no-one threw anything … ‘) And if you are feeling keen, try this one, also from William Byrd: