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Why Do We Sing Our Story?

SATURDAY- Psalm 105

We might glaze over the recitation of Israel’s history in Psalm 105 until we realize the power of this story as our present story. This psalm parallels the narrative in Deuteronomy 26:5-9, which continues to enliven Jewish faith. In A Glad Obedience, Walter Brueggemann relates how Gerhard Von Rad, a German pastor, offered this story in 1938 to serve the Confessing Church. He hoped the Confessing Church would realize its identity as distinct from Hitler’s National Socialism, in the same way the Israelites embraced a religious identity distinct from the Canaanites. Von Rad realized the power of retelling this story of Israel’s faith so that new generations could embrace it in new circumstances.

Brueggemann argues that we sing the history of Psalm 105 “to participate in an alternative act of imagination in which the person and purpose of God are taken as decisive for our life in the world” (p.36). We sing as “world construction,” in articulating a world differing from the one before us. The church understands itself to be an heir of this story and heirs, through hope, of a “better country, that is a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). We sing this story to know that God’s future is open to radical inversion, and to pray and wait and hope that “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We sing this story to reimagine our own agency , as we sing Moses empowered, and God’s people emancipated and called forward. We sing this story to prepare us for “a glad obedience,” and to remember “who we are, where we have been, and to whom we will answer” (p. 44).