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The Psalmist Remembers Deuteronomy

January 21, 2009 1 comment

There are a whole series of Psalms (such as 37, 73) that write within a memory of God’s faithfulness to His people. Right before Israel enter the land, Moses delivers a series of sermons (Deuteronomy) that remember God’s faithful deliverance from Egypt, protection across the wilderness, and promises concerning the land they are about to possess. These sermons are deliver against the backdrop of YHWH’s covenant faithfulness.

As a part of His faithfulness, YHWH gives His people the Law. The Law will train them to rule. The Law will teach them how to live and prosper in the land they possess. There are a series of blessings associated with the Law, which is rooted in YHWH’s covenant faithfulness. These blessings include (but are not limited to) life, possession of the land, blessing upon progeny, wisdom and understanding (power to rule), prosperity in health, family and culture.

When Psalmist remembers God’s faithfulness, he is aware of a disparity between the promise and the reality. Everywhere he looks, he sees covenant violators who despise YHWH’s Law and live as a law unto themselves. Yet, these people seem to enjoy covenant blessings, while those who remain faithful seem to suffer.

The Psalmist becomes a formal voice of remembering on behalf of the people. He reminds himself and them of God’s faithfulness in spite of appearances. Appearances are deceiving. Momentary exaltation may be followed by lasting humiliation. The people of God do not react in the moment but live and act for the long haul. Their vision must reach beyond their own life to the lives of their children and their children’s children.

Memory of the past and vision of the future, give YHWH’s people energy to act in the now. The people of God will be vindicated. They will truly possess the land. The blessings of God will not be withheld. Instead of looking around each corner for the promise, they train themselves to rest in YHWH’s faithful promise.

What is difficult for them and us is learning to rest in God’s faithfulness, realizing that His blessings will be revealed in proper time and across generations. We participate in the blessings in relationship with the family of God who precedes us and proceeds from us. Hebrews 11:39-40 argues that we need one another to be complete (across time). Romans 12 , 1 Corinthians 12 and other passages argue that we  suffer and rejoice together as one people (across space). So the fulness of blessing cannot be born alone but must be born in relation with the family of God.

And ultimately, I would suggest, the fullness of blessing must be enjoyed in relation with all creation (cosmos). This is the vision of harmony Paul’s envisions in Ephesians 1:9-10. The Psalmist’s call to remember and rest leads to repentance. Not repentance rooted in terror. But a fresh turning to God’s way, God’s call, God’s plan that is rooted in the rest that comes from God’s faithfulness.

Singing the Vision

January 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Singing is one of the ways the ancient Hebrews remembered their history and their commission. The Psalms are songs of praise to YHWH rooted in the Law of the Lord. This patterns starts immediately after the crossing of the Red Sea. A song is composed to memorialize this event and YHWH’s redeeming hand in the midst of it.

The psalms climb to the heights of human joy and drop down to the depths of grief and lamentation. While focused on the objective unchanging Law of the Lord and the story of God’s people, these songs give full expression to human emotion and human experience. By singing the songs, the listener begins to enter into the story and world of the people of God.

Music integrates words, emotions, imagination and body. Singing requires both our breath and our thoughts. In one sense, dance is the song moving and expressing through all the members of the body. In music (song and dance), there is movement between words and ideas, and in this movement hidden connections may be revealed.

This is not irrational. Instead, it might said that music fulfills the real, objective connections between realities that may not be obvious otherwise. Because melodies can bend backwards, overlap and play atop one another, we can see multiple connections between notes that might be difficult to see if we were simply staring at a score.

These connections between notes are like connections between ideas and action and vision. Humans are connected in relational ways that may not be obvious to the human eye. For instance, I cannot see a physical connection between father and son but they are connected on multiple levels. Extend this outward between man and man, man and creature and even man and objects, and I may discover many more connections than I ever imagined.

The Church Fathers expressed this connection as perechoresis and rooted this idea in the Triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (one God in three persons). Perechoresis is sometimes expressed as the loving dance between Father, Son and Spirit. In the dance, we cannot distinguish between Father, Son and Spirit. They are one, and yet they are three.

They extended this idea of a loving dance to all creation and all the spheres. The whole cosmos is created to reflect the loving dance of God. Every particular person and thing in creation is distinct and yet all are created to move in a harmony of love. Music helps us to experience, remember, see these connections.

Thus music can stir vision by revealing unexpected connections and by rehearsing ideas in my body and memory.

Art and Vision
Developing out from the power of remembering in stories and song, we begin to see how all the arts express this memory in different ways. Painting, poetry, drama, architecture and all the arts put this music into forms: some more solid (permanent) than others.

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