Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Psalms and the Re-ordering of our Emotions

I'm posting here a summary of sorts of my second talk at Tyndale College. If you go here, you'll see a video of the event, "Faith Talk Lectures in Christian Spirituality," plus links to the audio recordings.

Seven resources I would recommend in light of the topic are:

1. Jeremy Begbie, "Faithful Feelings: Music and Emotions in Worship," in Resonant Witness: Conversations Between Music and Theology.

2. Matthew A. Elliot, Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament.

3. Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church.

4. Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms.

5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible.

6. John D. Witvliet, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship: A Brief Introduction & Guide to Resources.

7. John Calvin’s “Foreword [or Preface] to the Psalter,” translated by Charles Garside, in John Calvin: Writings on Pastoral Piety, ed. Elsie Anne McKee, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 2001).

(By the way, the entire All Saints Church Advent Devotional can be found here.)

Here, then, the precis of my talk, and in the helter-skelter of this season, may you find the psalms to be a constant companion to guide, comfort, order and perhaps even correct all that you will feel, alone or with others, over the next few weeks.

The Psalms and the reordering of our emotions
… Theologian Jeremy Begbie writes: “our emotional lives are messy… [they’re] tangled, they come and go, they jump out at us at odd times,” and we find ourselves alternately governed by them or petrified by them. Boys are taught to shut down their feelings, while girls are affirmed for their expression of the affections yet, according to recent studies, tend to experience more embarrassment, guilt, shame, sadness and distress than boys.

Each of you of course has your own story. Some of you may feel grateful for your family; others of you may feel embarrassed about them. Some of you may feel confident in your faith, while others of you may be doubting it. Some of you may be worried about your future or feel particularly alive at the moment or wrestling with depression. The fact that few of us have ever heard a sermon on the theological importance of our emotions probably doesn’t help matters. The fact that our society sends a steady stream of confused signals about the emotions only exacerbates our search for well-being.

How then should we as Christians think about the emotions? What place should we give them in our lives? Is there a positive role for them to play in our lives—a formative role rather than a passive or pejorative one? And what kind of help might the arts offer us?

What I’d like to suggest to you today is this: It is not when we let our emotions do whatever “they will do” that we are free. When we do that, in fact, we get into trouble. We lash out, we sulk, we envy, we covet, we resent--often in frightfully automatic ways.

Instead it is when we allow Christ to order our emotions by his Spirit that we are free. And God has given us the poetry of the psalms to aid us in this work. In the singing of the psalms, in fact, we get a taste of what it means to have our emotions ordered to the kind of true humanity that characterizes Christ’s life.

Let me explain what I mean... (listen here for the rest).

1 comment:

cardiphonia said...

Hey David here are some posts with resources for singing the psalms:
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Contemporary Psalms for Singing - http://cardiphonia.org/2011/08/22/contemporary-psalms-for-worship/
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Psalms of Ascents - http://cardiphonia.org/psalms-of-ascents/