Finding the words in songs.

I’ve never seen “Ferris Bueller”. Or “Game of Thrones”.  I’ve missed most of the Harry Potter books and all of the movies. I’ve missed out on the Simpsons. I don’t know any drama series that aren’t on broadcast television, so for all, I know black is the same old black.

I’m no fun in conversations which refer to any of those things.

Which made it kind of fun for me when, in a two week period,  I heard or read or made references to Psalms 121, 127, 128, 130, 133, and 134. They are part of a song cycle I’ve talked about often, the songs of ascent.

This is a collection of songs in the book of Psalms. They run from Psalm 120-134. They were the little mimeographed songbook the Israelites kept in their guitar cases as they took their annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Samuel’s parents went up. Jesus’ parents went up. And they pulled out the songbooks and sang these songs.

Every year, at least. And likely in between. The variety of images in these songs gave people an emotional vocabulary, just like songs do now. And they provided words for lament and rejoicing, fear and festival.

morning run For me during the last couple weeks, these songs took me through a long night, to two weddings, to a code blue, to training about what to say when families face the death of a child. Over the last thirty years, since I first paid attention to them while teaching speech in 1986, they’ve taught me about waiting (like a servant watching a master’s hand) and rejoicing after the pain. They’ve helped me understand the history of Israel. They’ve shown me how poetry is more powerful than preaching sometimes.

I’m not opposed to popular culture, not all of it. But I learned this week how grateful I am these songs have shaped me more than I know.