A psalm for our time - Michael Winter

“If you had to be stranded on a desert island with only one book of the Bible, which would it be?” is a question often asked to people discerning a vocation in ministry (both lay and ordained). It’s not an easy question to answer. Do you go for one of the Gospel narratives, one of St Paul’s letters or the “soap opera” of Genesis?

For me, I would go for the psalms. Not only are they by far the largest part of the Bible (so I get more to pick from!), they are also easy to dip-in-and-out of and cover a wide range of emotions. You have psalms of praise (psalm 149 -“Praise you the Lord, Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints”), psalms of an intimacy with God (psalm 139 – “O Lord, you have searched me and known me”) and psalms of absolute despair, anguish and loss (psalm 31 – “For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones are consumed”).

In these troubling and confusing times, many of us will be finding life difficult and will be coping with loss of all kinds: loss of a person, loss of relationships, loss of physical contact with one another. Life will be tossed about and taking out of your control, but this is where I think the psalms can be of great comfort. There is hope and joy amongst the anguish. The psalms may well be a template for our lives: the pain, the loss, the hope, the joy, the feeling of loneliness, the overwhelming knowledge of God being present to us. It’s all there!

Recently, my Granny, Cherry Winter, sadly died. She always used to say to me that one of her favourite worship songs was Stuart Townsend’s “The Lord’s my Shepherd (I will trust in you alone)” based on psalm 23. I’ve been praying this psalm a lot recently and I think it might just be the perfect psalm for our time. It’s a psalm often used at funerals but I think it can also bring comfort for us living during this troubling time - “And though I walk the darkest path, I will not fear the evil one, for you are with me, and your rod and staff are the comfort I need to know.”

God is with us through everything, even more so in our pain and suffering. We should all take comfort in that knowledge. Amen.