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Psalm 77 Reflection

Noel McGarrigle, licensed lay minister at All Saints’ Rainford, responds to Psalm 77

Over 1/3 of the Psalms are Psalms of Lament. They echo cries of utter hopelessness and grief to God.

One such Psalm is Psalm 77.

The beginning of the Psalm starts with the Psalmist calling out to God in his despair, questioning whether God has abandoned him. But as his cries continue, an interlude (Sela) appears that, according to Luther, “indicates that one must be still and quickly think through the words of the Psalm…hold to that which the Holy Spirit there presents and offers.” And in doing so, the Psalmist remembers God’s mighty deeds of old, praising God for His holy way, who with unseen footprints, led His people, “by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (77:20 NRSV).

Thus, Psalm 77 is an example from Scripture of God’s people asking Him, “Why?” – why do we suffer? Why does God not come to our aid when we are faced with adversity? Why did God allow this terrible thing to happen? – has God neglected His responsibilities in our covenantal relationship with Him? Has He failed to meet his side of the bargain?

As we try to adapt and live with the terrible scourge of the global pandemic that is the coronavirus, the Psalms of Lament are needed now, more than ever as we try to make sense of a silent and indiscriminate killer that pervades our lives. Where is God in all this death and illness? Indeed, how can a loving God allow such a thing to blight our lives?

But these are questions that most, if not all of us, have asked of God throughout our lives and, undoubtedly, will continue to ask of Him for as long as we live. Therefore, we must revert the Costly Loss of Lament, that Walter Brueggemann claims, and use the Psalms of Lament as a means of making sense of the negative and disruptive blots on our life’s landscape. And in so doing, the goal of the lamentation Psalms, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, is us saying that we can no longer bear the pain and the hurt, asking God to take it from us and bear it for He alone, can handle it – and this is evidenced through Christ’s salvific action for us on the Cross.

Through Christ, God is with us in our pain and suffering. And for Christians, this allows to recall the glorious deed that God has done for us so that we will forever know that God is for us – He’s got our back!

The Hebrew title of the Psalms also means “hymns” and I have chosen two musical interpretations of Psalm 77 that have allowed me to reflect upon the Psalm and discern, from varying perspectives, what, when I read the Psalm, is God saying to me.

In the first musical piece, the vocalist uses the Psalm to process his family’s failed adoption and that of a friend’s ongoing struggle to successfully adopt.

This is a hauntingly beautiful interpretation of the Psalm, where both the deliberately struck piano keys and the immediately captivating singing of the vocalist, encapsulates the anguish and the loneliness of the Psalmist. The song’s melancholic tone continues throughout, where the listener is unable to escape the loss of the vocalist and indeed, even share and empathise with his grief. But then a musical interlude is played that just as Luther describes, allows for reflection, which the vocalist duly obliges, resulting in a sung proclamation of God’s holy ways.

The second musical interpretation comes from Sons of Korah:

Which, with its musical undertone, transports the listener to the ancient near eastern time of Psalmist. Slowly gathering pace, the vocalist repeatedly proclaims the wonders and deeds of God before building to a collection of varying voices and instruments glorifying God, ending in a Hosanna-esque fashion.

From these two musical interpretations, I interpreted my own version of the Psalm to reflect upon my life with God )Father, Son and Holy Spirit), remembering when He was with me in the past, in the hope of knowledge of Him, and His ways, in my present and future.

Watch a video of Noel's reflection here.

Psalm 77

I call out to you God,

I call out so loud, in the hope that You can hear me.

When my soul is troubled, I seek my Lord, reaching out for Him.

But my soul does not allow itself to be comforted.

Will I not know my God at this time?

So be it!

In my trouble, You will not let my eyes rest,

Nor shall my mouth speak words.

I remember Your love from days gone by,

When I found favour in Your sight;

This, I do not feel now.

O God, my God,

Have You forsaken me?!

So be it!

But, in remembering past days,

I remember Your wondrous and mighty deeds.

In the shelter that You freely gave me,

I found rest in Your almighty shadow.

You are my Lord and my God,

And Your ways are indeed holy.

No-one or nothing is greater than You!

So be it!

I will no longer be afraid or doubt,

For You will personally go ahead of me.

Your Cross will be my signpost,

You will take my burden and guide me in Your way.

Send me Lord, to do Your will,

In the power of Your Spirit,

For Your ways, O God, my God,

Are holy. Amen.


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