By Jason Wood
For a number of years now, I have had a practice every evening of chanting a Taize hymn, reading a psalm, and praying over the highs and lows of my day. Some nights the psalm expresses my heart’s cry so eloquently; other nights I find it harder to enter into. But a couple summers ago, I went through a season where each psalm I read began to shimmer with meaning.
I was journeying through the Songs of Ascent, a selection of psalms from 120- 134. These psalms are traditionally thought to have been sung by pilgrims travelling toward Jerusalem. Many of them are short, and sometimes they are a bit repetitive. I could easily imagine small bands of travellers committing these songs to heart and singing them as they walked along the road.
As journey songs, the Songs of Ascent are filled with so many rich themes of loneliness and longing, grateful recollection and heartfelt desperation, leading toward the joy of finally coming home to a place of belonging and community, with one another in the presence of God. As I discovered these themes, I began to hear melodies that could help carry these themes deeper into my heart. That’s the gift of music, isn’t it? It gives us a way to express our hearts in a language deeper than words alone.
Psalm 124, from today’s lectionary readings, is one of the psalms that inspired me. As you listen to it in today’s services, I hope that you can hear it in a new way. “Our help is in the name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth” (v.8). What good news! What cause for celebration - even a sort of riotous joy! The living God is greater than fire, flood, and all the ways in which we experience captivity. Hallelujah!