It doesn’t seem like a year since I was hastily putting together an exhibition of paintings depicting the Lord’s Prayer. Artists with strong connections to our parish each took a line from the prayer and created an image. Musicians and singers performed, and scones were enjoyed. Amid all this festivity, we remembered that our Archbishops of Canterbury and York had set the ball rolling when they called for a wave of prayer to cross our country.
This year, they have called again; and as I write, artists are planning their response, bakers are checking their recipes and singers are practising their new repertoire. This year, our theme is the Psalms and we are hoping that our pictures may stir up new ideas and ways of looking at these ancient songs.
Praying the Psalms – good heavens, what have those old things got to do with our lives today! What is a Psalm anyway?
To start with, you can find them in the Old Testament because they are part of our Christian inheritance from the earlier Judaic tradition. Open the Bible, about half way through and flip back a bit and you will find 150 Psalms lurking between Job and Proverbs. They are ancient songs written by the Hebrew people. If you look at the headings, you will see (for example Psalm 15) “A Psalm of David”. We have legends of King David writing the Psalms and often you can see pictures of him, with his harp, wrestling with some poetical tracts … but this is just a legend. We do not know for certain who composed the Psalms, there could have been several authors. There are Psalms of joy, Psalms of despair, deep anger with God … I think we have lost the ability to have a really good lament. The Psalms hurl so much grief and anger at God and there is nowhere better to aim it. God is big enough to take all our human suffering – together with our joy, delight and thanksgiving for our world. The Psalms give voice to it all.
(Photo: King David, from a 6th century mosaic from Gaza)
Our exhibition will give a tiny glimpse into these ancient songs, I pray that it will open your eyes to look again at the Psalms and perhaps be glad when they say, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (see Psalm 122).
Art Exhibition: open 25 May – 4 June 2017 at St John’s, Hale
Pentecost Party: Psalms, art, music, refreshments: 4 June at 3.00 pm (St John’s, Hale)