Go to the Psalms
“I don’t mean to be negative, but nothing is going to get better!” Marc Maron starts his new stand-up set with that blunt declaration and the crowd erupts in laughter. What is this sudden elation after a pessimistic statement? It is the elation that comes when we recognize something we all share has been stated boldly. Our pent up tension is released in laughter.
From my childhood, I remember Buck Owens and Roy Clark singing the following ditty on Hee Haw:
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
I still laugh when I hear this painful expression of despair and I am so grateful that laughter can cohabitate with deep gloom. We laugh because the singers are naming feelings we all share. As my mom would say, we are ‘tickled’ by the bold statement of how things seem to be.
We have been through so many intense stressors together in the last five years and now we have the war in the Ukraine causing distress and worry across the globe. At times like this, I have two places of refuge. One is dark comedy, as noted above. The other is that most faithful companion, the Psalms. I encourage you to open up your Book of Common Prayer or the Bible to the Psalms as a support and refuge during times of distress.
The Psalms are the songbook of the Bible and they represent the greatest collection of liturgical lyrics preserved from the ancient world. The world depicted in the Psalms is frequently a world of distress and threat. The psalmist seems to be constantly in danger. Any reader of the Hebrew Bible will see that the tiny country of Israel was under constant threat and this was understood as the cost of their special calling to know and represent the Lord God.
In the Psalms we have an empathetic companion for our deepest fears. I find that the Psalms often give me the words I need to name my emotional state and offer it to God in prayer. Try out Psalm 91 as a good starting point. Read it slowly, pausing between verses to allow your heart and breath to slow down to its place. Slowing down will open your heart and allow the words to connect with your soul. My prescription for these stressful times is more prayerful reading of the Psalms!
The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel
The Rev. Jarrett KerbelFormer Rector
(215) 247-7466 ext. 101 |
The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel (he/him) was educated at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was ordained Priest in 1995 in Danville, Pennsylvania where he worked as a Hospital Chaplain and a Head Start teacher. Pastoral positions followed at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Flossmoor, Illinois, St. Paul and the Redeemer in Chicago, and then Rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Park Ridge, Illinois. After following his wife, the Rev. Dr. Alison Boden, to her new position in Princeton, New Jersey, he was called to be the Executive Director of the Crisis Ministry of Mercer County. The largest food pantry and the gateway agency for Homelessness Prevention services in Mercer County, the Crisis Ministry also runs a Welfare to Work program and an innovative free farmers market. Jarrett became Rector of St. Martin’s in February 2011. He formerly served as the co-chair of Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER). Jarrett serves as Dean of the Wissahickon Deanery and is an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross. He is an Adjunct Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he co-teaches a regular class on Faith Based Community Organizing, Theology and Practice. Jarrett has been published in Sojourners, the Huffington Post, Yours the Power, and the Journal of Public Theology. He is the father of two children, Timothy and Martha.