Thursday, March 21, 2013

Retrieve Lament, Day 31 with Cardiphonia, Bifrost Arts, The Welcome Wagon, George Frideric Handel and more

"Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.
That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve
the lament that we omitted." 
             -- Ranier Maria Rilke, from Requiem For A Friend
During Lent I'll share almost-daily meditations of Scripture, hymns, and art reflecting this time of tension between dying and birth.

Won't you join me?

March 20, Day 31

Yesterday I made my case for the truth that we all love liturgy and, in fact, are wired for liturgy.  (think Monday Night Football and New Year's Eve in Times Square and military funerals and, yes, even church).  Today I continue in the Psalms of Ascent, re-discovering one of my most beloved poems in the whole psalter, Psalm 126.  I love it so much I used part of the text in both my high school graduation invitation and our wedding invitation.  
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,    and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations,    “The Lord has done great things for them. 
 The Lord has done great things for us;    we are glad.
Oh how I wish you all could have sat with us a couple weekends ago, learning the four part harmony for Isaac Wardell's (Bifrost Arts) arrangement from this Psalm. He tells a story of deep suffering experienced in his church family -- the death of a child -- and how as an act of worship they composed a melody to the Psalmist's combined laughter and tears in 126.  If you don't listen to another song in this post, do listen to Our Mouths They Were Filled.

The Book of Psalms invites us to rehearse the poetry of praise and lament, the liturgy of God's people from the beginning of being God's people.  This week I'm digging into the Psalms of Ascent, Psalm 120-134, and imagining myself walking the path up to the city of worship with my Hebrew brothers and sisters.  
via CardiphoniaThe Psalms of Ascents (Psalm 120-134) have existed as a pilgrim psalter for the Judeo-Christian faith for over 2 millenia.  They are a unique collection of psalms, shorter than average – with a distinctive ‘folky-ness’ that were sung by jewish pilgrims as they traveled up to Jerusalem for the great feasts.
As I read these chapters I discovered the happy surprise that once again Bruce Benedict (aka,Cardiphonia), worship leader at Christ the King Presbyterian church in Raleigh, shares with us all a rich resource for worship.  In 2009 CTK  focused on Psalms 120-134 for 15 weeks, growing in their understanding and appreciation for the Old Testament poetry that speaks deeply to our lives of corporate and everyday worship in the here and now.  They've generously shared all their resources here.

Here's a few more bits from my meditation on Psalm 124 - 127...

In the House of My Pilgrimage
Grace Bomer
via CIVA's traveling exhibit, Scribes of Hope II

Psalm 124

English Standard Version (ESV)

Our Help Is in the Name of the Lord

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
    let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
    when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have goneover us;
then over us would have gone
    the raging waters.
Blessed be the Lord,
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!
Our help is in the name of theLord,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124, Chant from the Hermitage with John Michael Talbot

Psalm 125

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord Surrounds His People

A Song of Ascents.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
    on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
    their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
    and to those who are upright in their hearts!
But those who turn aside to theircrooked ways
    the Lord will lead away withevildoers!
    Peace be upon Israel!

A hymn of response :  Firm and Unmoved Are They (Psalm 125), words by Isaac Watts (1707, alt.), music by Zac Hicks (2010)

Psalm 126

English Standard Version (ESV)

Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord

A Song of Ascents.

 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.
A song of response to Psalm 126 (via Cardiphonia's resource of contemporary musical arrangements from the Psalms)

Psalm 126 – Our Mouths They Were Filled – Bifrost Arts

listen | leadsheet

Psalm 127

English Standard Version (ESV)

Unless the Lord Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

127 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his belovedsleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

A song of response to Psalm 127:  Unless the Lord the House Shall Build, by The Welcome Wagon

Listen to Handel's sacred cantata Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126/7) HWV 238 on my spotify playlist ("nisi Dominus" is the Latin for "unless the owner")

Sacred Poem XLVI

Carole Kunstadt
via CIVA's traveling exhibit Scribes of Hope II

Suggested Resources for Lent:

  • 2013 Lenten Daily Devotional from Christ Church of Austin
  • St. Alban's Psalteronline images of the Psalms of Ascents from this illuminated 12th Century Psalter.
  • Songs for the Sojournmusic, community group guides, worship guides and images commissioned for Christ the King Presbyterian Church's (Raleigh) 15-week study of the Psalms of Ascent.

    Now it's your turn!  What art are you enjoying this season? 
     Tell us about it in the  comments below.  
    If you've written your own post, share the link.
    "Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east." Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland
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