Singing the Psalms?

This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for October 4 2018.

From time to time I have wondered why it is that Christians do not typically sing the biblical psalms during their sung worship. To be sure, our modern songs and older hymns do at times draw from the Psalter, but the psalms themselves don’t seem to find their way into our repertoire of Sunday morning songs. Certainly, their musical form is different to what we are used to, and it is not always clear how new covenant people (Christians) should appropriate old covenant songs – not to mention certain worrisome bits in them. But nonetheless I wonder if there is something we were missing out on by neglecting them.

My interest has been renewed by three things recently. One is that the singing of psalms has been raised several times in a book written by someone whose church sings the psalms – exclusively! Another is a number of interesting websites discussing psalm singing as a modern practice. The third is the experience of singing hymns several times with my young adults group in the past few weeks (I find that hymns are easier for untrained singers to sing heartily, especially in a small group). So, I brought a copy of The Book of Psalms for Worship (2010) from Crown and Covenant Publications in the USA and it arrived in my letterbox last week (thanks Tiffany Palmer for forwarding this to New Zealand).

The Book of Psalms for Worship has all the psalms set to musical notes which I am yet to make sense of (I am not musical – I even struggle to sing and clap at the same time). Many of them are broken into two or more parts, presumably so that they remain within the normal 3-4 minute song length. And each psalm/section has a verse from the NT attached to it, suggesting how we can understand these in light of the gospel for our worship. I look forward to exploring this songbook of psalms, and discovering what they might have to offer sung worship today.