Monday, 17 February 2014

Singing Whole Psalms

When I was a child there was a department store famous for its pick and mix sweets.  You took your paper bag and filled it with your selection of chosen sweets, a little of this and a little of that, and not too much of any one variety.

Sometimes I wonder if we operate a pick and mix approach to the singing of psalms.  We sing, for example, stanzas 1 and 2, then 11 and 12, and finish with 16.  At other times psalms are clipped by excluding the final few verses.

I think the main reason for this is fear of making any one singing too long, as if the extra couple of verses might exhaust us.  But the psalms are a coherent whole, even if we can see sub-sections within individual psalms that might form a unit.  I would plead that we sing, where possible, whole psalms, or at least coherent units of particular psalms.  If it is felt that the psalm is too long for one singing then split it into two or three separate singings.

If you choose to curtail a particular psalm ask yourself what is being left out.  Is there a tendency to exclude the balance found in the psalm and omit judgement verses?  There is a realism in the psalms, a gritty recognition of blessing for the godly and judgement for the wicked.  We should not try to smooth out the psalms to make them more acceptable.

We would not do this with our public reading of Scripture, “Let us read the Epistle to ______ chapter 1, verses 1 to 3, 9 – 16, and verse 20…”

So my plea is sing whole psalms, or at least contiguous sections of psalms.  Now regarding Psalm 119… 

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