Friday, May 21, 2010

Lament? Or Joy? Multi-cultural worship and Psalm 126 in an indigenous voice

Tonight was the opening of the Uniting Church Queensland Synod. It happens every 18 months and Queensland being a big place, people drive for hours, so it’s quite a big deal.

The night was fabulous – worship rich in respect for indigenous people and multiple cultures. Visually astute, well choreographed, musically diverse and tasteful. Check out the communion table, shaped as a boomerang, draped in the flags of those who participated.

As with pretty much all Uniting worship I attend, the Bible was read. Tonight, being special, included four readings – Psalm, another Old Testament reading, Epistle and a Gospel. (It’s interesting, by the way, to compare Uniting Bible reading practises to New Zealand Baptist Bible reading practises, both at local church level and at a Baptist Assembly level!)

The Psalm that was read was Psalm 126.

 1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of we were like men who dreamed.
 2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
 3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
 4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.
 5 Those who sow in tears 
 will reap with songs of joy.
 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, 
carrying sheaves with him.

But it was read by a local Aboriginal man. So read it again, imagining hearing the voice of an indigenous Australian.

I’ve always heard this Psalm as a Psalm of joy, of praise for Gods’ provision.

Tonight it became to feel more and more like a psalm of lament. It seems to me that very few Indigenous people in Australia can claim their fortunes are restored and they have joy in the land. A Psalm of lament?

Or a Psalm of intercession? What might it mean for a Uniting church, of predominantly Anglo-Australian’s, to actually hear an Aboriginal man read this Psalm? Might it not call us to ongoing pray and proactive protest, that indeed fortunes will be restored and songs of joy?

Posted by steve at 09:48 PM