February 20, 2022 Psalm 116:1-9 (comparing Gafney translation/NRSV)
What a rich reading of the psalm this morning, first hearing it in Dick’s deep, rich voice from the traditional male-centric translation, the one we have grown up hearing, the one that always refers to God as he. And then hearing it in my voice from Wilda Gafney’s translation, sprinkled with descriptive titles for God, always referring to God as she. My hope is that as we listen to the words of the psalmist, each of us can find a way to connect with this God who has clearly responded to the desperate prayers of the writer, rescuing him or her from death’s door. This is Saving God, Living God, God who listens to our cries, Deliverer God who enables this writer to walk in the land of the living. This is not an unusual exchange between humans and God. Humans cry to God for help when things get tough, when life is filled with danger or illness or sorrow or fear. Perhaps we know to call out to God because of the way God has answered the writers of many of these psalms. We find comfort and strength in the witness of these writers who pour their hearts out to God and find the help they need to make it through. Or perhaps we know to call out to God because of our own personal experience with God, because of the difficult times in our past when we can see the hand of God at work, pulling us through. Our previous experiences make us more likely to trust in God’s saving, healing, restoring presence in a current crisis.
Because the book of psalms runs the gamut of human feelings and reactions to life situations, all the way from pain and lament to joy and thanksgiving, it is not a surprise to find many psalms which lifst praise and thanksgiving to God for God’s amazing acts, either for the community as a whole or for individuals. We find this kind of praise repeated in many psalms. It comes out of a deep gratitude for a new lease on life, thanksgiving that God has “cheated death, saved life and delivered her people”, as Gafney says. This psalm is clearly written from an individual’s perspective, making it easy for us to borrow the language for use in our own prayers of thanksgiving. Take your bulletin for today and find the scripture passage. When you have some time to yourself, circle the lines that you could make as part of your prayer. Perhaps one of these: