Psalm 16, 23 Apr 17

Like the twenty-third, this is a psalm of trust and protection in divine presence, the source of goodness and guidance. David describes God as his portion and cup, evoking familiar imagery in themes that connect well with daily life. Less familiar but interesting are some other phrases that might easily pass unnoticed in a quick reading.

First, in verse 6: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in (or enclose) pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” Most of us in the developed world can rejoice in having been dealt good cards — a well-favoured estate, physical and otherwise, as inherited by the psalmist. We seldom think of our situation as defined by boundary lines, but limits are implicit in our inherited circumstances. What we do with them is up to us.

Secondly, in the next verse, we find a point of contact with many meditative and mindfulness observances practised in many cultures around the world: it is by listening reflectively to our own hearts that we may often find divine guidance. There are several other ideas floating around; for example the apostle Peter quoted the later verses of the psalm in Acts 2, declaring that David was foretelling Christ and the resurrection. David concludes the song by affirming: “You show me the path of life. … there are pleasures for evermore.

Music

Of the four settings in Psalms for All Seasons, three follow our preferred format of a refrain with sung verses. All of these three emphasise the theme of refuge and protection:

  • 16B has a slightly longer refrain and verses set to a lively tune
  • 16C introduces a simple refrain by Christian Strover (© 1973) with an equally simple but effective chord line of Gm-EbΔ-Dm7-Gm.
  • 16D uses the same refrain as 16C but verses are sung to a tone.
  • 16D Alt (a new tune which departs from the protection theme, and might therefore have been better listed separately as 16E) also follows that familiar pattern of verses sung to a simple tone, with a refrain quoting verse 9. This could be sung as call and response if desired:

Cantor: My heart is glad and my spirit rejoices
People: My body shall rest in hope.

The Emergent Psalter also uses this verse 9 quoted above in an easy refrain; find your own verse treatment as usual in this source. The New Century refrain, this time by Carolyn Jennings, quotes the final phrase: “In your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” A home-grown setting by the author also uses these closing phrases.

There are a couple of songs in the ether that are highly suitable for male voices. A good example is Benedicam Domino (Psalmus 15) by Orlando di Lasso (1532 – 1594). It’s only a verse or two, and that in Latin, but very enticing.

 

Psalm 25, 29 Nov 15

Image: Wikicommons

Image: Wikicommons

Psalm 25, an acrostic psalm in Hebrew, runs to 22 verses. The alphabetical arrangement is lost in our translations.

The psalmist seems to swing between two states, first soaring then penitential. Our selection is the first ten, more aspirational, verses. David then goes on to lament his failings and seek forgiveness in the second half.

Here’s the opening verse,  from the old BCP translation:

Unto thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul; my God, I have put my trust in thee : O let me not be confounded, neither let mine enemies triumph over me.

And progressing to that very familiar and recurrent of prayers in the psalms:

Shew me thy ways, O Lord : and teach me thy paths. Lead me forth in thy truth, and learn me: for thou art the God of my salvation; in thee hath been my hope all the day long.(v.3, 4)

Music

Ps19Genevan

Another Genevan psalm; genevanpsalter.org

Many early settings of this psalm may be found, including those by Boyce, Lassus, Goudimel (Genevan) and Blow. Composers of any era usually chose to use either first aspirational or second penitential section; an impressive total suggests that this psalm was of particular interest and widely loved.

Confining our attention to responsorials in modern sources, we again find several options:

  • Together in Song, from which we sang a (modified) setting of Psalm 93 last week, offers a composition by Christopher Willcock, whose work we find reliably beautiful. The verses are a little tricky for those who do not read music.
  • Everett in The emergent psalter uses verses 4 and 5 for the antiphon. The Carers’ Group used this one last February.
  • Psalms for all seasons gives us 25A, again using verse 1 as the refrain and verses to a tone; as well as a more formally arranged 25C.
  • The Taizé chorus Ad te Jesu quotes verse 1 of this psalm.
  • South Woden has a home-grown refrain and verses based on a simple tune we used in recent years as the monthly ‘communion chant’, called into service as a vehicle to sing many different verses and psalms, in this case verses 3-4:

Ps25 SWCC

Psalm 130, 28 June 2015

Schwych CharterLife in many places has often been pretty rough over the years; people fight, wars arise over land, resources or power grabs. Days are very dark for ordinary people feeling the consequences of conflict.

When things fall apart like that, community rulers try new ways of patching them up and preventing recurrence.

The charter shown here is one such attempt. It’s a page of a 16th century Book of Alliances of Schwyz, in the middle of Switzerland, a transcript of an earlier treaty between confederations or cantons, the Sempach Charter of 10 July 1393. This document sought peace by agreeing that military force would only be used in defence against external threat not between the valley communities. Amongst other things, it laid down the rules of conduct in war:

Feuds are prohibited between the confederates and unity should reign in all military campaigns. The proceeds of war must be divided, monasteries and women spared. Plundering is only permitted after victory.

All well and good, but treaties on the whole don’t have a great track record. They look good but are often ignored. (The Magna Carta, whose 800th anniversary is being celebrated this month, left an important marker for human rights but the treaty itself was much repealed within a few decades.) At such times, the common people suffer again and again. No wonder the writers of the psalms were doubtful about trusting in princes (Psalm 118) or great armies (Psalm 33) – remember that theologygram?

Don’t despair, just look elsewhere

This week’s psalm provides quite a different focus. It opens with the peoples’ cry:

Out of the depths I cry to you O God. Hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! (verses 1, 2)

For there is hope of steadfast love and forgiveness (verses 4, 7).

Out of the depths

Even though it’s over a year since we sang it last, you will surely remember it if you were there; a simple haunting song following Sinead’s tune – though we shall stick more closely to the words of the psalm itself.

We are blessed to have Jo lead us again in this nice song. We need someone, perhaps a young person, to play bodhrán; other instruments and singers please also join in backing the solo and help to lead the refrain:

Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord
Don’t let my cries for mercy be ignored.

Dawn in the Whitsundays

Worth waiting for

The tone of the psalm encourages confidence in divine forgiveness and help. However, it wisely counsels patience:

My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning (v.6)

We shall need a little of that as we take the long flight from Europe to Australia. We have missed making music with the Psalm Singers in the South; so it will be worth the wait! We reconvene on Saturday.