Today’s author is Naomi Sveholm who is a missionary with Central Europe Teachers (https://www.facebook.com/elcacet) teaching English at a bilingual Lutheran high school in Bratislava, Slovakia with her spouse and two children.
“…with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”
My mom, an early childhood educator, knew that children need words and interactions from very early on. It is impossible, however, for anyone (perhaps especially exhausted parents of infants) to be the sole provider of verbal interactions and she would sometimes put on music to help supplement her own verbal input.
Music has always been present in my life: piano lessons starting at age 4, so many choirs, band, handbells, and lullabies for my children. I’ve often felt that I had a soundtrack through life. It is one aspect of worship I’ve missed during the pandemic – I never feel the music quite as fully while worshipping online or singing through a mask.
I recently read an article about how contemporary worship music does not reflect the fullness of experience from the Psalms (referring to a tweet from Old Testament scholar Michael J Rhodes). While I can’t say I resonate with many of the violent images in the Psalms, it was interesting to read about the absence or low representation of themes such as justice, the poor and marginalized, enemies (except in the spiritual sense), and something that hadn’t occurred to me but seems obvious in retrospect – questions. Rhodes says “Prick the Psalter and it bleeds the cries of the oppressed pleading with God to act…there is very little evidence that the Top 25 are ever speaking clearly about situations of social and economic harm.”
Gratitude is not necessarily a solitary or exclusive emotion. We can be grateful for our own homes while millions of people face housing insecurity through housing prices or political instability. We can be grateful for our own health even as we lack the physical abilities we once had. We can be grateful for our own privilege while speaking out or fighting the systems that confer those privileges.
Sharing joys and appreciation is important, but so is the rest of the emotional range. Even with gratitude in our hearts, we can still experience and sing the fuller emotions of a complex God and a complex relationship that is reflected in the Psalms.
We are angry. There is so much wrong in this world, so much brokenness it sometimes feels hopeless.
We are struggling. Inflation is affecting daily life. We don’t see our friends and family as often as we’d like to.
We are joyous! There is new health and life and love!
We are grateful. Every day there is some new sign of your love and care. Thank you, God!
We are complex. Help us to recognize our own range of emotions and to share ourselves with you and with others more fully.
In Jesus’ name we pray,