Crafting Poems of Praise

Last Sunday I encouraged everyone to take another look at the book of Psalms, and in so doing to feel the freedom the psalmists take in writing and crafting these beautiful and sometimes challenging poems to God. Going along with our worship theme of “Poetic Justice,” I took two interpretations of the same psalm (Psalm 8) to show how it is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to apply a little liberty with the written word and to craft new poems of praise or challenge or thanksgiving all our own.

Here is are the two versions of Psalm 8 we used; the “version 1” is the one taken from The New Testament and Psalms, An Inclusive Version that was edited by many outstanding contemporary scholars including Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite (former president of my former seminary) and the other version coming from the poet, activist and former Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan.

Version 1:
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

Version 2:
Through all the universe
Your glorious name resounds

Version 1:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Version 2:
I raise eyes
To the lofty tent of the heavens
Sun stars moon
Foil of your right hand

Version 1:
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Version 2:
I see rejoicing beast and dolphin
Eagle, cormorant, condor
Triumphant plowing the seas
In the plangent air godlike
I bend to the faces of children
They lisp your name

Version 1:
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Version 2:
And I ponder;
Mere mortals, who are we
That you take note of us
Have care of us?
Fragile, fallible
Vernicular, puny—
Crowned now, sceptered now
Conscious now, exultant now!
Through all the universe how glorious is your name!

Now I hope you will go forth and write!

 

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