Father Mark, Reflections

The Earthy Experience of the Psalms

If you’ve never given much thought to the prayers we say in the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalms, it is well worth a reflection.   The collects and prayers of our prayer book are well crafted gems of scripture and tradition, some of them dating back centuries into the early church.  They create a framework of theologically appropriate prayers to shape our minds, hearts and wills.   They give us understanding in order to pray in a more appropriate way according to our salvation history.   Contrast this with the prayer in the song by Janis Joplin: “O Lord, why don’t you buy me a color TV….” 

Contrast these beautiful prayers with the Psalms.   Yes, the Psalms have beautiful phrases, such as:  As the deer longs for the water brooks, so my heart longs for you, O Lord (Psalm 42) Even note in the midst of its beauty, the content of the prayer hymn is agrarian, connected to creation.  Other psalms connect the depth of human experience and more earthiness such as, Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God (Psalm 69).   There are more “earthy” examples from which to choose. 

Some of us are more comfortable with the more cultured prayers of the prayer book while many of us can identify with the often gut wrenching experience of the Psalmist.  Of course, not all the Psalms are related to suffering.  Many express the absolutely ecstatic bliss of God’s Presence and deliverance. 

I would like to take the next few weeks of my journal to reflect on the Psalms.  But not the Psalms in general, but YOUR favorite Psalms.  Text, email or call me with your favorite Psalms and I will do a word study on them and attempt to make more visible the ground out of which the Psalm is born so that we may better understand and experience their spiritual vitality. 

I have been attempting to relate how our scripture and tradition reflect on coping during difficult times such as we are with the COVID-19 in my journal to you as offering a means of support.  Another way I have found to be supportive is what you already know.   Become “lost” in what you are doing in that which is meaningful to you.  It’s sometimes difficult to find those meaningful activities but it is possible.  This isn’t a means of escape, but rather a form of participating in the creation of God.   In the 1980’s-2000 I used to do a drawing journal, using abstract art as a form for my prayers.  The extra space provided by our present conditions allowed me to pull out the colored pencils and the pad.  Sitting on the front porch, I spent an hour “praying” releasing my innermost self to God by expressing it on paper.   I felt a spiritual calm unrivaled during the process that I haven’t experienced since the social distancing began.  I was “lost” in what I was doing, and in the prayer of releasing all that was within me in those moments, I became “found,” The paradox of the gospel at work.  So I will attempt to focus more on becoming “lost” in the Psalms or other gifts the Spirit gives me and share them with you. 

Remember, send me your favorite Psalms! 

Here’s to Light in the darkness!  (Just a hint of what’s coming tomorrow).

Fr. Mark