Midrash and the Psalms ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

Next Saturday, February 19th we are delighted to welcome Wisdom Council member, musician, and psalmist Richard Bruxvoort Colligan to lead a Midrash Lab on Psalm 23. Richard’s music is featured on our CDs and in many of our retreats. Midrash is the practice of bringing sacred imagination to a scriptural text to engage it on a deep and personal level.

Read on for Richard’s introduction to midrash practice celebrating God as Midwife.

As a student of the psalms, one thing that keeps me enthralled is the wildly diverse models and metaphors for the Holy One. Shepherd, Holy City, Gardener, Warrior, Night Song… 

One of my favorites came up the lectionary a couple of weeks ago in Psalm 71: “You are the midwife that took me from my mother’s womb.” Another translation goes, “You cut the cord when I came out of the womb.” There’s a very similar line in Psalm 22. God is present at our birthing. 

Our son Sam was born in a water tank in our basement in Minneapolis, attended by our midwife Lynn and our doula Michelle. There were just a few complications, but our birth plan pretty much worked out. There were two of us in that big tub. Then there were three! My wife probably could have managed her labor and delivery without our midwife and doula, but as trusted, skilled people, they were invaluable partners in the work. Plus, they were witnesses to one of the greatest moments of our family’s life. Your own experience of being born, as much as you may have heard the story, may be a little fuzzy in your mind.

Picture this possibility on the day you were born: Her hands are wet and warm and eagerly ready for your emerging. Is she tending your mother with a joyous face? Is there an intensity about her? What does her voice sound like? Imagine that as you are born, it is she who sees you and touches you first. Catching you, she gathers you with cord and placenta and places you on your mother’s chest. 

Not only is the psalmist singing of her own birth history, she’s witnessing a lifelong and passionate relationship with this Midwifing God: “O my God, you caught me when I was naked and tiny. You still attend me today, ushering me into new crazy seasons of life as they come.” This God is ready helper, confident usher, fierce healer, comforting, joyous waymaker, big sister, wise auntie.

Throughout these 150 ancient songs, the psalmists sing of deep transitions. Experiences of joy and loss are affirmed as part of faith life. Whatever season you are in right now, the psalms are for you as a companion. 

A last word of blessing from Psalm 121. Within the transition you’re smack in the middle of now, God will keep your going out and your coming in today and every day. 

It is this rich conversation between personal history, sacred imagination and biblical text that will guide us to encounter Psalm 23 in a fresh way. Join us next Saturday, February 19th.

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD REACE

Image © Christine Valters Paintner

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