Where desert and garden meet

Again and again the Psalms celebrate, in almost embarrassingly vivid language, the belief that the creator of the universe has, for reasons best known to him, decided to take up residence on a small hill in the Judean uplands. The living God, the Psalms declare, has decided to make his own special home at the point where the fertile western escarpment meets the eastern wilderness. It is poised between garden and desert–almost as though God couldn’t quite make up his mind whether to settle firmly in a New Eden or to remain camped with his people in their wilderness wanderings.

N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms

Those who love the biblical psalms will want to reach for N.T. Wright’s The Case for the PsalmsHere are some highlights I couldn’t wait to share:

By all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church’s original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy.

There is a temptation to act

as though the Psalms are the problem, and we should try to fit them into our world. Actually, again and again it is we, muddled and puzzled and half-believing, who are the problem; and the question is more how we can find our way into their world, into the faith and hope that shine out in one psalm after another.

And here’s a great one on Christian liturgy:

Good liturgy, whether formal or informal, ought never to be simply a corporate emoting session, however “Christian,” but a fresh and awed attempt to inhabit the great unceasing liturgy that is going on all the time in the heavenly realms. (That’s what those great chapters, Revelation 4 and 5, are all about.) The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent nonpsalmic “worship” based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoiled child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy.

It only gets better:

The Psalms, I want to suggest here, are songs and poems that help us not just to understand this most ancient and relevant worldview but actually to inhabit and celebrate it–this worldview in which, contrary to most modern assumptions, God’s time and ours overlap and intersect, God’s space and ours overlap and interlock, and even (this is the really startling one, of course) the sheer material world of God’s creation is infused, suffused, and flooded with God’s own life and love and glory.

Speaking about the symbolism of Gothic cathedrals, those “great vaulted spaces, soaring high above ordinary human capacities,” Wright says:

When we sing, the sound made even by small-scale earthbound creatures such as us rings around the rafters that we cannot otherwise reach.

And later this:

Sing these songs, and they will renew you from head to toe, from heart to mind. Pray these poems, and they will sustain you on the long, hard but exhilarating road of Christian discipleship.

I think you’ve probably figured out why I’m so thrilled about this book. If you don’t have it, get it and share it, or borrow it. Wright has a way of putting into words what you may have known or experienced for a long time but were never quite able to put into words. And of helping you go beyond.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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