OWAAT Nov 26: Singing (Or, Well, Chanting) God’s Sovereignty

We move not only into a new month, but also into Year 2 of our “3 Year Daily Bible Readings (with Apocrypha)” plan. Most of this week’s Psalms are enthronement Psalms (47, 93, 96-99 are the Enthronement Psalms), and while sometimes I have bristled at royal depictions of God and Jesus, who better to depict as royalty, rather than any earthly figures? Saying that God alone is sovereign helps Christians understand and remember to whom our ultimate allegiance is sworn, and consider those implications for how we live our lives. These days in particular, it calms me greatly to know deep in my heart that God is still God, no matter what else is going on in our world.

Think:

Daily Bible readings:

November 26 Psalm 93
November 27 Psalm 94
November 28 Psalm 95
November 29 Psalm 96
November 30 Psalm 97
December 1 Psalm 98
December 2 Psalm 99

David Howard notes, “The longest unbroken stretch of untitled Psalms in the Hebrew Psalter is Psalms 93-97.” (p. 104) I’m not sure why these Psalms are untitled, but it’s something to ponder as you read them. Brueggeman helps me to come to terms with the Enthronement Psalms, noting in Psalm 96, “The outcome of such enthronement of the creator God as unchallenged sovereign is to secure the order, stability, justice, and well-being of the earth (vv. 10b-12). … Thus the liturgy can imagine all of heaven and earth rejoicing in the new rule of YHWH, and so the worshiping congregation joins with all creation in acknowledging the new rule that makes the world safe and whole.” (p. 438) Humanity has often used power to oppress, demean, and otherwise dimish others’ lives – and we could learn a lot from God’s uses of power.

Pray:

As we finish our month of praying with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for the month of November, using their monthly Prayer Ventures letter for November 2017, reflect on the ELCA’s prayers, and what it has been like to pray with what may be another denomination than your own. What was your favorite part of this prayer resource? What would you change? Was it helpful? Would you continue using it or a resource in similar format?

Moving into December, our monthly prayer practice will be chanting the Psalms. There are a few books of this sort; my favorite has been Cynthia Borgeault’s book Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide (cd included). She notes, “What I believe happens when we introduce the psalms into our consciousness–and even more so into our unconsciousnes–through the practice of contemplative psalmody is that they begin to create a safe spiritual container for recognizing and processing those dark shadows within ourselves, those places we’d prefer not to think about. There are times in the spiritual journey when anger is a very real part of our life, just as jealousy, abandonment, helplessness, rage, and terror are. All of these emotions are in us, and they’re all in the psalms.” (p. 43)

As far as the art / craft / mechanics of actually chanting the Psalms, there are several great resources for doing that. Technically speaking, you can pick up any version of the Book of Psalms, start singing, and there you have it! However, not all of us feel that confident in our musicality or prayer lives – and the church throughout its history has created a number of tools that have codified or ritualized this practice, in case you’re not feeling like forging your own path or reinventing the wheel. You don’t need to be a great singer to chant the Psalms – just need to be willing to make a joyful noise for God. (Or a lamenting one, depending on the Psalm.) The Psalms when considered as hymns for worship, are known as the Psalter (versions have been available for centuries and have often contained additional devotional material). There are several Psalters freely available online as ebooks (try this search). There are several print Psalters available, if you think that would be helpful. And of course there are apps for that, as well – check out The Book of Psalms for Worship in the Apple or Android App Stores, or do a search for “Psalter” and explore. There are videos on YouTube, web sites, etc. Finally, the PCUSA has a simple and well-organized instructional page with videos: “How to Chant the Psalms.” Feel free to try several methods out and choose which one works for you.

Act:

How are we to live our lives, in order to live out our belief that God is sovereign? How will you serve and live out your love for God and neighbor this week, working to close the gap between God’s ideals and our reality as we understand it? If you’re not sure, here are some ideas:

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for things to do.

Find your local faith- or congregation-based community organizing network/organization and participate in their work and actions. Here are links to the major faith-based community organizing networks and their local affiliate organizations:

DART – Direct Action and Research Training Center

Gamaliel

IAF – Industrial Areas Foundation

IVP – InterValley Project

PICO – People Improving Communities through Organizing

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

References:
Bourgeault, Cynthia. Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2006.

Brueggemann, Walter, and William H. Bellinger Jr. Psalms. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Howard (Jr.), David M. The Structure of Psalms 93-100. University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, 1997.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “How to Chant the Psalms.” Presbyterian Mission, 2017. https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/service-lords-day/service-lords-day-psalm/chant-psalms/.

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