Monday, February 26, 2024

Rewriting the Psalms

This Lent I am beginning a spiritual practice of rereading and rewriting the Psalms. This will take much longer than the forty days of Lent. There are 150 psalms, and I am meditating on one psalm per day. It will take considerably longer than 150 days because some days I only do a portion of a psalm. There are some really long psalms in the Bible!  

The idea for this project came from a book that my wife is reading, entitled Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan Merrill. I have not read the book myself. That is intentional. I do not want to be influenced by her versions of the psalms. Anyway, the idea of rewriting psalms is not unique to her. Decades ago I used to lead retreatants in praying the psalms and writing their own psalms. 

My Lenten project is the same sort of thing. I am rewriting the psalms from a nondual mystical perspective. This is an untypical approach. Generally speaking the psalms are neither mystical or nondual. The psalms reflect the Hebrew spirituality of the time in which they were written and compiledThey are earthy and emotional. They are honest and disturbing. They can be violent at times. This is because they are products of the very human faith of the psalmists. 

The psalms are also among many people’s favorite books of the Bible. They are among my favorites books. I took a course on the Psalms while in seminary, taught by respected Old Testament scholar Marvin Tate, who was later my faculty advisor for my doctoral studies. He was the author of two volumes in the Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100 and Job. He also helped with Hebrew translation for the New International Version of the Bible.  

He taught me how to interpret the Hebrew text of the psalms. Although I have forgotten most of the Hebrew I knew back when I was a seminary student, I have not forgotten the basic lessons he taught me. I am putting those to good use as I rewrite the psalms from a nondual perspective.  

Some might question my perspective in rewriting the psalms, thinking I am distorting the text. Yet every translation of the Bible is a rewriting of the text. Everyone who reads the psalms reinterprets them from their own perspective. We all rewrite the psalms in our minds as we read them, even if we are not aware of doing so. I am consciously reinterpreting them from a mystical perspective.  

The Christian church read these Jewish psalms in the light of the life and teachings of Jesus, thereby reinterpreting them and shedding new light on the ancient texts. I interpret them in the light of the nondual teachings of Christ. Jesus invited us to be one with God as he is one with God. That is what he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That is how I pray the psalms.  

This is an approach that not only transcends the differences between the Jewish and Christian faiths, it transcends and includes all faiths. We live in a religiously pluralistic world. No religion is isolated from other faiths any longer. The internet has made that impossible. While traditional churches are dying, there is a blossoming of creative spirituality beyond the bounds of branded and monetized religion.  

In reaction to this spiritual ecumenism, some people are retreating into fundamentalism to escape perceived threats to their religion and their way of life. But many others are opening to the Perennial Wisdom at the heart of all spiritual traditions. It is from this latter perspective that I write. It is from this perspective that I rewrite the psalms.   

1 comment:

Kathy J said...

Please keep doing what you’re doing. Your thoughts, ideas, and opinions are much appreciated.
Kathy Justiss