Personal History, Worship

Over the Snowbank

It’s a happy memory from an unhappy time, the winter of 1997. My children and I were still living in the house their father had left, and there was a significant snowstorm on a Saturday night. We woke up Sunday morning, and watched the cancellations on TV, but Large Church never, ever cancelled, so I knew there would be a service, and the choir or whatever members of it managed to get there would be singing. Singing in the choir was the focal point of my life then, the connection to God and community that kept me going from one week to the next as I lived into my new identity of almost not married. 

I told the children, “We are walking to church.”

And so we bundled up, although I think the boys found the notion a bit shocking, and there was LP to cart along with us, age 19 or 20 months. We put her on a sled and pulled her.

But first we had to climb over the snowbank in front of our house. I was the tallest among us, just 5 feet. #1 Son would have been going on 11, Snowman just 6. We hauled ourselves over it and felt triumphant.

Then the real journey began.

At church, I remember the choir director shuffling through his files to find something we could sing, the odd group of us who had struggled our way mostly on foot. I found him upstairs making copies when I went to see if there would be any activity or Sunday School for the boys. Thank goodness there was someone to watch my little one in the Nursery!

(For a depressed person, this had been a super-human effort.)

I stood in the choir loft in the sparsely populated church feeling useful, singing with all my heart, over the snowbank for Jesus.

Psalms, Revised Songbird Version, The Bible, Worship

Word work

For the past year, I’ve been trying to put the Psalms into words we can more easily say and understand, mostly to use as Calls to Worship. I like to use the week’s Psalm that way, but I recognize that some of the words typically and rightly used to translate them are not heard instantly as anything other than “churchy” sounding.

One great example is “ascribe.”

“Ascribe to the Lord,” says the Psalmist. Some people will certainly think of the word “scribe,” which is to say someone who writes things down, but even that is an old-fashioned word, not in common use. Imagine sitting in a pew and reading that word when you’re not a Bible student. (Honestly, isn’t that most of the people in our pews, UCC people? Other Protestants, Catholics, your mileage may vary.)

A-scribe. Unless you’re whipping out your smart phone to look it up quickly, which you’re most likely not, the word is going right by you, and it’s just one more pretty-sounding piece of church blah-blah-blah.

(Not that some of us don’t like church to be just that way, pretty-sounding blah-blah-blah. Pretty-sounding blah-blah-blah is SAFE.)

Ascribe to the Lord means Give God the credit for whatever the thing is. Or, you know, impute, because that would be more easily understood by the general population. It means “attribute or think of as belonging, as a quality or characteristic.”

“Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.” (Psalm 96:7, New Revised Standard Version)

So give credit to God for having glory and strength.

This week I looked at the Common English Bible, which I mostly love, and I used it as a model for our Call to Worship (granted, I eliminated male pronouns, which required some other adjustments, too), but I’m not satisfied with the closing line and wish I had done something different.

One: Give to the LORD, all families of the nations—give to the LORD glory and power!
All: Give to the LORD the glory due to God’s name!

I added the “to” in the last line for clarity, even though I don’t like the meter, and as I say, I’m not satisfied. But at least that rendering of verse 8 in the response line makes the point that we’re giving God God’s due.

Anyway, next week, I hope I have time to lean less heavily on the CEB and work up a Revised Songbird Version instead, even though I mostly love it.