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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