Forums Spiritual Theology 1.3: Brueggemann on the Psalter Reply To: 1.3: Brueggemann on the Psalter

  • Anonymous

    Deleted User
    October 1, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Walter Brueggemann’s “Introduction” to The Message of the Psalms offers several helpful approaches to grouping or understanding the Psalms, referencing the contributions of Gunkel, Mowinckel, and Westermann, before introducing the three-fold movement of Psalms of Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation. Brueggemann’s commitment to both critical study and the life of faith (“to be belief-full, that is, in the service of the church’s best, most responsible faith,” (19)) is refreshing and personally helpful. The life of faith conveyed here is one that is expectantly dynamic, not static—while still insisting on our rightful surprise at the newness of things when transitions inevitably come. A Christian spirituality informed by the entirety of the psalms teaches us to expect seasons of profound disruption, for example, without eliminating the surprising nature of such disorientation. We are right to feel anger, disappointment, resentment, and more when the bottom falls out from under us. However, we are comforted by the reminder that this, too, is rightly understood as having to do with God and, thus must be brought to God (20). This understanding is comforting without being condescending or minimizing. It is not gaslighting. It is not to deny what is real to one’s experience. But it does put the experience of alienation and corresponding response of lament within a bigger framework, which is not reduced to one’s personal or communal experience of disorientation. Nor does this posture suggest a rush to promises of resolution, or “new orientation.” Resolution may come, and it may even be rightly hoped for and expected, but the understanding offered here is that the when and how of its arrival will be a surprise, beyond what we can imagine, plan, or manufacture on our own best efforts.

    While I wouldn’t say this grouping of the psalms
    into orientation, disorientation, and new orientation “adds to” my understanding
    of Christian spirituality (I’ve read and appreciated this wisdom before), it is
    a welcome and timely reminder. This articulation of the landscape of a life of
    faith reminds me that, even as I am in the liminal space between disorientation
    and new orientation, I am not alone—or, at least, not as alone as I have felt. In recent months, I have felt the end of so many things central to
    the core of who I am: my marriage, my job, and some of my closest friendships.
    There have been times recently where I have gone to bed feeling profoundly
    alone, sad, resentful, confused, and overwhelmed, with no apparent horizon on this experience. At
    times, I have felt like I am waking up on mars, struggling to name, let alone
    navigate, this entirely new, completely foreign territory. But in this reading,
    I am reminded that God is not outside of or alien to this experience of a “personal
    end of the world” (20). Without feeling pithy or cheap, this reading reminds me
    that here, too, God is present—perhaps especially so. And, just as
    importantly, this reading reminds me that, even in my experiences, I am not suddenly or somehow
    outside of the communion of those who have gone before me or who presently share the
    journey of Christian spirituality. Shared language suggests shared experience. For that, I
    give thanks.