Preaching the Psalms

rainTHIS is why I love Walter Brueggemann:

“Note that the Psalms thus propose to speak about human experience in an honest, freeing way. This is in contrast to much human speech and conduct which is in fact a cover-up.  In most arenas where people live, we are expected and required to speak the language of safe orientation and equilibrium, either to find it so or to pretend that we find it so.  For the normal conventional functioning of public life, the raw edges must be denied or suppressed for the purposes of public equilibrium.  As a result, our speech is dulled and mundane.  Our passion has been stilled and is without imagination.  And mostly the Holy One is not addressed, not because we dare not, but because God is far away and hardly seems important.  This means that the agenda and intention of the Psalms is considerably at odds with the normal speech of most people, the normal speech of a stable, functioning, self-deceptive culture in which everything must be kept running young and smooth.

Against that, the speech of the Psalms is abrasive, revolutionary, and dangerous.  It announces that life is not like that, that our common experience is not one of perfect equilibrium…Perhaps in our routinized prayer life that is one of the reasons the Psalter does not yield its power–because out of habit or fatigue or numbness, we try to use the Psalms in our equilibrium.  And when we do that, we miss the point of the psalms.  MOREOVER, OUR OWN EXPERIENCE MAY BE LEFT UNTAPPED AND INARTICULATE AND THEREFORE UNLIBERATED.  Such surface use of the Psalms coincides with the denial of the discontinuities in our own experience.  It happens daily in the reduction of our language to numb conventions.

Thus I suggest that most of the Psalms can only be appropriately prayed by people who are living at the edge of their lives, sensitive to the raw hurts, the primitive passions, and the naive elations that are at the bottom of our life.  For most of us, entry into the Psalms requires a REAL CHANGE OF PACE.  It asks us to depart from the closely managed world of public survival, to move into the open, frightening, healing world of speech with the Holy One.”   –From Walter Brueggemann’s Praying the Psalms, 1993

 

I know its heady but it is also true.  We live numb – I do anyways, so much of the time.  We let the ways we speak about the world and our own experiences in it dull the true things about it – true things that are at once very hard and very good. The Psalms, if we let them, will give us a way to enter the radically honest, radically hospitable language of a life with God.  And if we can do this together?  Well, we just might have a  community of radically honest, radically hospitable people who are being transformed by the Presence of the Living God right there in the midst of those words.

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Truth and Reconciliation at The Road Church

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As you may know, yesterday The Road Church participated in The Blanket Exercise.  It is a learning tool to help non-indigenous Canadians know more of the history of Indigenous people’s in Canada and what the effects of those stories that are still being felt and dealt with today.   I was surprised at the level of impact it had on me to watch my own children, not really having a clue what was going on, being taken to another part of the sanctuary represent Residential Schools.    This small bit of walking in someone else’s shoes has been and will continue to be a point of transformation for me.  The question I couldn’t get away from yesterday, feeling that as I watched my girl’s head walk away was “How does anyone come back from that?”

It is an eye-opening exercise and we did it on a weekend where Indigenous/non-Indigenous tensions are at the forefront in the news with the Colton Boushie verdict.  At The Road Church these last few months, we have been talking about what justice looks like in general, in the bible and why we need to engage with that word and all its implications for our real lives in Calgary (check out the website for any sermons you might have missed).  And in many ways, The Blanket Exercise was a good way to end the series while at the same time, it was a jumping off point.  In very real ways, it highlighted the open-ended nature of the questions we asked.   As we debriefed at the end, so many people said, “Its such a layered history,” and “So what do we do now?”

 

If you are looking for more information here are some websites you can look to.

Check out the website for the CRC’s Aboriginal Ministry and the Canadian Aboriginal Ministries Committee.    These will give you a sense of our broader community’s engagement with the issues as well as worship/reflective resources for you to look at.   CAMC has just this week also put out a reflection for Lent which reflects on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s and our Faith-Full response to it.

 

As well, make sure you check out the magazine Faith Today for articles by Calgarian theologian Mark Buchanon and Christian-Indigenous leader Cheryl Bear on what it means to be reconciled as Christians.  As Cheryl Bear writes, “We can be better together. What are our first steps?”

 

If you are interested in further discussion on what the reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbors that is being asked for looks like and what it means to respond as Christians to this  real-life  justice issue on our doorsteps, we are going to host a Truth and Reconciliation Report Reading Group with its first meeting being Thursday Feb. 15 at 7pm at The Road Church.

 

As always, what was most striking about the day spent with the exercise and with our facilitator Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes was that, even though our worldviews and spiritual understandings are different between Christians and Indigenous peoples, we don’t need to collapse them into sameness to see the value in each other, to be welcoming to each other and MOST IMPORTANTLY to take one another’s stories seriously.  That is an important things to hold on to.   When we talk about God doing his work of reconciliation, its this – that HE does this work in our hearts  when we let down our guard and see each other as God sees us all –  as His beloved children.

The longing for justice is the longing for putting things to rights.  Every human has this longing innately working within them – for ourselves and for others.  As we ourselves are healed inside and out, we then look to be a part of the healing of others.  What would happen if we continue to follow this longing? Where would that thread lead us?  What story would we actually be telling then?  What story do we indeed live out of?    In His grace and peace, and only by the power of that grace and peace,  we will walk down this road together.