Story of a Journey into Deeper Community through singing the Psalms.
As a young adult during the Jesus music era of the ‘70s, all but one of the enclosed hymn tunes was sung in my local church.
At 17, I moved to attend Bible College in Montana, where the students were singing contemporary Christian music in gatherings with guitars. We preferred new music to our classical arts education, much to the professors’ chagrin. Educators persisted in training their students despite the students’ insistence that church music was in the throes of a great transformation. Students still needed jobs in classical arenas and traditional churches. This course of study eventually provided me with a double degree in Bible and church music. (B.A.)
After graduation, while I was working as a worship and music minister in Africa, America’s own industry of of contemporary Christian music (CCM) morphed into a full-blown Western genre called, “Contemporary Christian Worship,” and church bands grew up as electronic keyboards and digital computers became accessible to the public. Technology brought about the forecasted transition in Church music, while it also served to settle me into a surreal no man's land between digital pop and textbook hymns.
Embarking on a legal education then, in order to earn a living, an odd thing began to happen in my understanding of scripture. As I read my Bible with newly trained eyes, theories of law began to emerge. Much to my disbelief, I began to see that the Ten Commandments of the Hebrews were the basis for justice in law for any nation which considered itself rooted in the Jewish or Christian faith.
As much as I enjoy emotion-driven modern worship and believe in emotional experiences with the Lord, I began to believe that I was forming an expression of faith that actually limited my experience of God because I was not letting biblical history, testimonies of history, and the doctrine in the Psalms inform my faith. Through an over-simplified expression of worship lacking the history of the Word-made-Flesh, I was failing to thrive.
If we do not hide God's Word in our hearts, I've learned, then the name of Jesus is emptied of meaning, power, and context to us. We easily use His Name in vain, as no more than an incantation. Worship leaders often shy from contextual psalm-singing due to 1) the lack of modern musical expression, or 2) the lack of using the name, Jesus. Yet, to introduce the breadth of faith in the Creator-God-Messiah-Christ and Holy Spirit as the full expression of the Biblical Godhead, singers can hear His attributes such as: Creator and Orchestrator of all nature and life, holy LORD and Teacher, Judge of souls and Atonement for nations, the Miracle Maker. I expose myself to treasures revealed in hidden places.
When I read the psalms, they seem RAW, uncensored, truthful. The Psalms reveal the grace of law showing God's love for relationships. I am reminded that God REWARDS the diligent, the wise, the pure and faithful: His righteous ones. I am reminded that there is stewardship in GOD's plan for us and that He even forgives terrorists.
The Psalms are full of theatrics, testimony, and important spiritual correction for me. God’s own priorities are revealed through singing historical Psalms in a community.
Personally, the lyrics hook me and lift my soul to a mystical plane that is not easy to describe otherwise, because God's Word is a living Word, and interactive with our own spirits. So, please enjoy singing the Psalms in context. Chant them or jazz them up for a faithful reformation of your community!
If you are ready to sing for your blessings...