The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Flat Psalms

They're prayers of pain and joy

The translation of the Psalms in the Lutheran Book of Worship seems flat and prosaic. Much beauty of the poetry and impact have been lost. Is this necessary? Is it a translation or paraphrase?

If anything, the Psalm translations and selections made for worship are not strong enough. The LBW committee, after an extensive search, chose the translation used by the revised Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

There are dozens of translations of the Psalms, and new ones continue to be developed from which congregations can choose. The committee studied available translations, sought reactions from scholars and laity, and chose the translation deemed most readable and useful for corporate worship. (The New Revised Standard Version wasn't available until 11 years after the LBW was published.) This version is more tested because of the Anglican tradition's long experience of daily use of the Psalms.

The Psalms, collected as a prayer book for the people of Israel, were not prayed for aesthetic beauty. They were screams of pain and anger and shouts of joy. Some are lovely, such as Psalm 23. Some are ugly: "Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock" (Psalm 137:9). Let them sink into your heart. Walk into them, and God's word will move within you.

My friend says people shouldn't take communion unless they mean to change their ways afterward. I thought communion was to wash away your sins and make you clean, and being human we will sin again. Would you explain?

Yes, God makes us clean. We wash our clothes weekly, knowing they will get dirty again. We also regularly eat to be energized. So we are called to feast at the Lord's table, regularly, as often as we can.


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February issue


Embracing diversity