This fall, we will explore how the Psalms invite us to bring every part of our lives before the Lord. B.W. Anderson put it this way: “The Psalms are the songs that accompany the people of God on their journey through history.” Those journeys include highs and lows and the Psalms reflect this.
While we will explore a variety of psalm types this fall, I’d like to introduce this series with Walter Brueggemann’s three-part division of the Psalms: psalms of orientation, psalms of disorientation, and psalms of new orientation.
The first season, orientation, reflects those times in life in which our questions are settled and life is whole and at peace. It’s analogous to summer and is characterized by psalms of creation, praise, and Torah. The second season, disorientation, is when we’ve been ripped away from the mainland by the Tsunami of tragedy and can scarcely see from breaker to breaker in the wide open sea. The psalms of lament, with their attendant honesty and bluntness, are the hallmark of life’s raw winter season (also here are found psalms of confession and the imprecatory psalms). The third season, of new orientation, takes place when we are surprised anew by God’s gifts, joy breaks through despair, and light pierces the darkness. This springtime is when new life come forth from the dreariness of winter’s cold. Psalms of Thanksgiving and hymns of praise express this season.
Part of the enduring appeal of the Psalms is how they honestly trace life’s uneven contours of settled security, searing pain, and unexpected newness. Each of these three types is vital and legitimate in its time and place and we as the church would do well to expand our repertoire to include the richness and variety of the Psalms.