The Book of Psalms is a
truly wonderful collection of ancient Hebrew poetry. The current collection of
one hundred fifty works of varying lengths was probably finalized sometime
during the first century CE. The individual psalms, of course, are much older and
stem from the actual worship of the Hebrew community. They are poetic
discourses between Israel and God. Some are prayers of praise, some express
deep pain and distress, some are even militant and chauvinistic. Together they
make a collection of speech to and about God.
This Sunday we will be chanting (spoken) part of Psalm 105. Singing or chanting the psalms in Christian worship is a tradition as old as the church itself. Paul admonishes the early church to use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in worship. One method of reciting these great works of poetry unique to our denomination is known as Anglican Chant. It began sometime during the late 16th century with the musical compositions written by Thomas Tallis and his contemporaries. It was seen as an improvement, or development, of an older form of chanting called plainchant. Perhaps at some point in the upcoming year, with our Choir fresh from what I’m sure will be a triumphant residency at Ely Cathedral, parishioners will be encouraged to join the choir in this centuries old practice?
Psalm 105 was probably written during the Babylonian exile (587-539 BCE). It is a litany of praise to God that tells the story of Israel from the call of Abraham to the settlement in the land of Canaan. In the brief portion we read this week, we hear again the story of the call to Abraham. We are reminded of the promises God made to him and how they were carried through succeeding generations. The psalm is very clear. God's love and guidance directs history.
It is unfortunate that we do not give time to read the entire psalm. It is quite beautiful and should be enjoyed in its fulness. I encourage you to read it at home along with Psalm 106 which completes the story of the people's faithlessness in responding to God.