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Christ in Gethsemane

I was recently in an (Christian group) online discussion where one person said (wrote) “no one reads Psalms”. I was caught up short. That is the very opposite of my own personal experience.

OK, occasionally I am caught out, and I don’t feel guilty about that, but normally my day begins with Morning Prayer with 2-3 psalms in it. And the last thing I do, the last prayer I pray, and I have every single day, decade upon decade, is Psalm 134. Also, it would be a particularly exceptional Sunday service that I oversaw that didn’t have a psalm in it (a Christmas Carol service may lack a psalm).

But the “no one reads Psalms” comment raised no significant surprise. That fits with other such comments I’ve encountered. It fascinates me that, when I talk to some people about the Revised Common Lectionary, and some communities regularly cut down the number of readings, they simply regard the Psalm as “just another reading” (ie they see RCL as offering four readings), and the Psalm, for them, is the first reading to be cut back. Whereas, I am used to the tradition evident in weekday Eucharists – there is one reading and the Gospel, with the Psalm prayed between those. If I cut back a reading in RCL, the Psalm is not where I would start. I haven’t even mentioned hymns that are essentially reworked Psalms.

I have lived in the land of the Psalms certainly since I was a teenager. The Psalms provide me with the landscape, the map, the grammar of the spiritual life. The Psalms go through every human emotion from despair to hope, from rage to reconciliation. By praying Psalms that are describing feelings and experiences that may not currently be a reality for me, I am exercising spiritual muscles that I may need to have functioning healthily at a moment’s notice.

Jesus clearly lived in this land of the Psalms. And the New Testament is obviously set in the land of the Psalms.

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