Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writing Our Communities Psalm

I have to confess I have always thought that the Psalmist was a bit of a drama queen. The Psalms always seem a little "over the top," heavy on hyperbole and drama. Perhaps it is just because I come from a culture that tends to value the "stiff upper lip" approach to life's problems that the Psalms have always seemed rather exaggerated.

Recently though I've had a new insight into the nature of the Psalms. In a class I'm taking we were given an assignment to write our own Psalm. We were supposed to do a "lament" Psalm and make sure it included the standard elements of a Psalm: an invocation of God, a complaint, a petition and a vow to praise.

I decided to write a Psalm that reflected the fears of our community, the reality that like most religious communities we have fewer, older members and our future is not certain. The process of expressing our "lament" in this way was eye-opening. I tried to make my psalm as "over the top" as psalms usually are. It was an exaggerated plea for help painting a dire picture of our situation. And then at the end, like all Psalms, I included a vow to praise God no matter what may happen.

The result was very interesting. By the time I finished my deeply pessimistic view of our situation and ended with a vow that nothing will shake our faith, I felt different. Somehow expressing deep worries, articulating the fear we often feel but often don't state out loud, was very liberating. By being rather melodramatic and exaggerated in voicing the fear it becomes less powerful. By claiming the "vow to praise," stating to God that nothing will shake our faith and knowledge of God's presence, I felt deeply energized and renewed. No matter what the future may hold God is present in our midst, upholding and guiding us.

So, the Psalmist may have been a drama queen, but it is a transformative drama!

A Communal Lament

O God why have you abandoned us?
Left us crushed and desolate in this place of sorrow?
Answer God, listen to our plea,
attend to the sound of our cry.
Are you not a God of mercy,
a God who gives life to those who revere your name?

For you have abandoned us and broken us,
left us without hope or promise.
Respond now, raise your holy arm,
look upon us and save us.
For our community is dying,
our life blood poured out like water.

We stagger like a lion's prey,
daily we are diminished, we shrink and stumble.
We waste away like a land without water,
like animals in a drought we thirst for the waters of life.
In diminishing choirs we struggle to sing your praise,
in the dryness of prayer we crave your presence.

We remember the days long past,
we long for the splendor we once knew,
how we would fill the chapel with voices of praise,
in ranks strong and overflowing we sang hymns which are your due.
We were a beacon of hope to all who knew us,
the light of our faith shown in the darkness.

Though darkness may fall and despair overcome us,
still we will sing your praise O God.
Though none may enter and we sleep in the grave,
on our lips will be songs as we close our doors.
In dying breaths we will remember your name,
for in your praise alone is our life.

1 comment:

Sister Carol Jean said...

Dear St. Gertrude Sister,
It is amazing how writing out our deepest pains to God can bring such light to the hurt. Thank you for sharing your Psalm in all its struggle. I think it is the song of many communities (mine too) as we pray our way into an unsure future.
Sister Carol Jean