Readings Jeremiah 1-3a, 6-15 and Luke 16.19-31
Psalm 150 The joyful finale to the Psalms, the song book of Judaism (King James Version)
Praise ye the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
Talk 1 : A Simple Song?
I have a special interest in songs. Together, this morning we will embark on a journey to understand more about the importance of songs and singing. Our reading from the Psalms today was from the King James version of the bible printed in 1611. I chose this early, influential version because the words have been scarcely updated through the centuries. You would probably realise this when you consider that to write a Psalm is to write a poem. The author has to very precise regarding their choice of language. Any translator worth their salt is trying to capture from the Hebrew the essence of both the meaning and the rhyme. The Psalms are a vital collection of songs on anyone’s terms. The experts suggestion it took 500 years to shape this compilation, it has been used by Jews, Muslims as well as Christians. Today Psalms are used as prayers, are regularly sung in a wide variety of styles from chants to call and response and are the basis for numerous hymns.
- Did you know that the first ever book printed in North America was a collection of Psalms, the Bay Psalm Book (1640).
- Did you know the theologians Calvin and Luther utilised them, both taking them very seriously indeed?
- Did you know that composers from every era have used them – Bernstein and Bruckner, Brahms and Britten, and of course, Johann Sebastian Bach?
The top biblical scholars tend to argue for an individual Psalm to be the centrepiece of the whole collection as they try to discern some overall shape and meaning of this important book. However, they do agree that the Psalter concludes with a mighty multi-instrument concert of praise and we have heard the magnificence of the final Psalm already today. Before we move onwards to consider the first song found in the bible, here is the Psalm again from an award-winning modern translation by Eugene Peterson called ‘The Message’,.
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
Hallelujah! ( Psalm150)
Most biblical songs are not simple, rather they can be full of revelations, complex and important. Regularly they contain more power than prose. They can reveal new insights. Were you to enter an art gallery later today to look at an exhibition, the recommended practice is to spend time with each painting, whether or not it initially attracts your interest, or speaks to your spirit. Similarly the songs collected in the bible are all worthy of a second thought, a re-read and some reflection.
You may wish to consider today which is your favourite song, at this point in your life, why that is your choice and what does it do for your spirit? Thanks be to God. Amen