…the question is more how we can find our way into their world… (page 6)
This is what I’ve been struggling to articulate that happens when I pray and sing the Psalms daily – a portal is opened and I partake of a world that begins to look a lot like the one Jesus lived and died to proclaim: the Kingdom of God. N.T. Wright had a lot more in store for me, as it turns out, because his little book about the Psalms is entirely about this portal to God’s Kingdom, and how it intersects this world of reality we typically inhabit from womb to tomb.
Two extended quotes are in order, the first a statement of Wright’s thesis, that the Psalms form the intersection of three dimensions, time, place, and matter:
I am thinking, first, of the crossroads between one sort of time and another: our time, if you like, and God’s time, in which aspects of what we think of as the “past” and what we think of as the “future” can actually come together in what we perceive and experience as the “present.” I am thinking, second, of the crossroads between one sort of “place” and another: our place or space, if you like, and God’s space. (In the Bible, these are often referred to as “earth” and “heaven,” though that can be misleading because many people today assume that if “heaven” exists, it is a long way away and a different sort of reality altogether, which isn’t how the Bible sees it at all.) I am thinking, third, of the crossroads between the created order, the material world as we normally perceive it, and the way in which that creation, already “charged with the grandeur of God,” is promised that it will at the last be filled afresh, filled to overflowing, with that same grandeur or glory. (pp. 21-22)
The second quote outlines the significance of this notion of Psalms as Portal, or intersection, if you like =)
The Psalms, I want to suggest here, are songs and poems that help us not just to understand this most ancient and relevant worldview but actually to inhabit and celebrate it – this world view in which, contrary to most modern assumptions, God’s time and ours of overlap and intersect, God’s space and ours overlap and interlock, and even (this is the really startling one, of course) the sheer material world of God’s creation is infused, suffused, and flooded with God’s own life and love and glory. (p. 22)
The Psalms, then facilitate a communication between piety and mercy, the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. They are an intersection that enables the Torah of God to define how we see and understand and inhabit this world in which we live and breath and have our being. They are not an escape, but a lens – a worldview, as Wright argues. But they also shape us in that worldview, so that those of us who inhabit the Psalms, and who practice their inhabitation of our lives and loves, become shapers of the world around us, into the Kingdom of God, where God’s will is perfectly accomplished, and where all manner things will be well, and where justice and mercy prevail.
Well-played, Wright. Well-played.
P.S. Read in Kalus Seybold’s “Introducing the Psalms” (trans. by R. Graeme Dunphy):
“The singer hopes with his new song to bring the congregation from listening to seeing, from seeing to being astounded, and from astonishment to trust…” (p. 40, in an explication of Psalm 40).