Voices on the Psalms

Kathe Kollwitz art at the Ash Wednesday service

“If we turn to someone in the midst of doubt and say, “God is going to get you through this,” we risk the possibility of the person feeling guilty or judged for not being able to hold onto that hope themselves. I’ll never forget when I discovered Psalm 88. It doesn’t end with professions of God’s faithfulness, but rather something like, “I’m going to die.” There are moments in life where we do not see the hopeful side, and it seems impossible to hold on to God’s goodness. We need to have space for both hope and despair in lament. For many, it might take a long time to see God in the midst of what happened. For someone in a pastoral role, the most caring thing is to hear the doubts and not try to “fix” the person or convince him or her otherwise.”

+ Cynthia Eriksson, associate professor of psychology, in her reflections on trauma and the Psalms. Read more from her essay at the Fuller Youth Institute. After the imposition of ashes during Fuller’s Seminary’s contemplative Ash Wednesday chapel service, attendees used artwork by Kathe Kollwitz (“Lament,” 1938-1940, image of bronze relief; pictured above) to reflect on lament and praise, reflection and gratitudethe same wide range of emotions found in the Psalms: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (103:13-14).

“If we were to read poems as regularly as we read advertisements and memos and newspapers, perhaps our language would be more redeemed, more useful. Eugene Peterson encourages us to use the poetry of the psalms for prayerto enter into them, mumble them, imagine them, sense them, let our perceptions of God and good, of creation and covenant, of fraud and faith be transformed as we pray.”

+ Mark Lau Branson, Homer L. Goddard Professor of the Ministry of the Laity, in his essay on Eugene Peterson’s writing, the Psalms, and ministry. Read more here.

“Directly or indirectly, psalms have always been the backbone of Christian worship and liturgy. They have been chanted, sung, read responsively, versified, and paraphrased. They have inspired not only poems and classic hymns, but also praise choruses and Christian rock and roll. But what shall we do with the imprecations, John Thompsonthese disturbing curses? Should we follow the lead of the lectionaries and skip them? Or should we play them up?”

+ John Thompson, professor of historical theology, from his book Reading the Bible with the Dead: What You Can Learn from the History of Exegesis that You Can’t Learn from Exegesis Alone. (pictured right)

“Every person who has walked with God for a while has experienced seasons of despair and seasons of exultation. Sometimes these seasons overlap, even in a single prayer. In agony, we cry out for God’s help. Then we remember his goodness. Then our desperation returns as we wonder why God seems so distant. Then we are encouraged by the promise of his presence. And so it goes when we live in the tension of faithful prayer. The Psalms give us permission to cry out in anguish without holding back and to rejoice in the memory of God’s faithfulnessand, sometimes, to do both more or less at once.”

+ Mark Roberts, director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, reflecting on Psalm 22 and the importance of lament. Read more here.

“There by the Mississippi, by the waters of Huck and Jim—there we sat down and wept when we remembered Michael Brown, and all the others. On the stop signs and lampposts, on all the parking metersthere we hung up our hearts. For there our captors taunted us, and our tormentors shoved their weapons in our guts and in our faces, telling us to keep the peace; be respectful; sing a hymn! But how could we sing here and now in what has become for usin what has always been for us—a foreign land?”

+ from “Psalm 137 for Israel in Ferguson,” a contextual translation of the Psalm written by Richard Erickson, associate professor of New Testament for Fuller Online and Fuller Northwest.

John Goldingay lectures at the 2016 LA Theology Conference

“In terms of our worship today, we are much more comfortable with only praising God. We don’t spend a whole lot of time in church telling one another what God has done for us in the past week and rejoicing, and we don’t spend time in our churches telling God how terrible life has been in the past week and asking him to do something about it. If we want our worshipas well as our prayerto reflect the balance of the psalms, we’ve got to bring our worship into the kind of richness and balance we find in the psalms.”

+ John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, in a classroom lecture on the Psalms. Listen to the first of his Psalms lectures below. Pictured: Dr. Goldingay lecturing on the voice of God in Scripture at the 2016 LA Theology Conference.

Our Community Reflects on the Psalms

+ Click on each image to learn about our faculty, staff, and friends. Share your favorite quote on Twitter or Facebook.

Laura Harbert reflects on the Psalms

Amos Yong reflects on the Psalms

Tony Hale reflects on the Psalms

John Thomspon reflects on the Psalms

Johnny Ramírez-Johnson reflects on the Psalms

Erin Dufault-Hunter reflects on the Psalms

Mark Roberts reflects on the Psalms

Alexis Abernethy reflects on the Psalms

Mark Labberton reflects on the Psalms

Mako Fujimura reflects on the Psalms

Rob Johnston reflects on the Psalms

Cynthia Eriksson reflects on the Psalms

Mike McNichols reflects on the Psalms

Oliver Crisp reflects on the Psalms

“Tera rah ess, dharti ute, Ya Rab jata javey,
Sab qoma vich, teri mukti, saf pechani jave
Barkat devay, Chehra apna, sahdey tey chamkavay,
apna rehim vakhaway”
(May your ways, on earth, oh God be known
your salvation, among all nations, proclaim to everyone
May he bless us, turn his face to us, and may he shine on us
May he show his mercy)

+ Psalm 67, translated into the Punjabi language, was sung at the School of Intercultural Studies’ 50th Anniversary celebration. Read more from Eric Sawar, a new PhD student from Pakistan, reflecting on worship and Punjabi psalms here.

Bill Pannell Reflects in the Prayer Garden

+ Bill Pannell is pictured resting under a bronze plaque with a verse from the psalms: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” These plaques, burnished after decades of hanging in Fuller Pasadena’s Prayer Garden, quietly accompany students and the wider Pasadena community as they enter the garden for reflection and refuge.

Further Reading

Worship That Changes Lives: Multidisciplinary and Congregational Perspectives on Spiritual Transformation
Alexis D. Abernethy (Baker Academic, 2008)

Word Biblical Commentary: Psalm 101-150
Leslie C. Allen (Thomas Nelson, 1983)

Word Biblical Themes: Psalms
Leslie C. Allen (W Pub Group, 1987)

Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72
John Goldingay (Westminster John Knox Press, 2013)

Psalms for Everyone, Part 2: Psalms 73-150
John Goldingay (Westminster John Knox Press, 2014)

Psalms, Vol. 1: Psalms 1-41 (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms)
John Goldingay (Baker Academic, 2006)

Psalms, Vol. 2: Psalms 42-89 (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms)
John Goldingay (Baker Academic, 2007)

Psalms, Vol. 3: Psalms 90-150 (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms)
John Goldingay (Baker Academic, 2008)

Psalm’s for God’s People: A Bible Commentary for Laymen
Robert K. Johnston (Baker Pub Group, 1982)

Praying Curses: The Therapeutic and Preaching Value of the Imprecatory Psalms
Daniel Michael Nehrbass (Pickwick Publications, 2013)

+ Learn more from a curated list of additional resources on the Psalms from David Taylor, the director of Brehm Texas.