Some years ago I was privileged to go on a retreat at St. John’s abbey in Collegeville, it was a truly blessed experience and one I hope to repeat relatively frequently.  One of the points that I loved about the place was that it was a monastery, which meant that they had morning prayer, daily Eucharist and evening prayer…at minimum. The part that took some adjusting to was that they were in fact Catholic ,which is similar enough to Angilcanism, but just different enough to make you feel slightly off beat.  Like trying to recite psalm 23 in contemporary language “even though I walk through the darkest valley” when every everyone else is doing the King James “yea, though I walk through the valley of death”.  It just isn’t in sync and sounds slightly off…makes you hesitate to speak at full voice.  Scared you’ll draw attention to yourself. The other thing that took a bit getting used to was the way they recite the psalms.  With a much difference cadence.  Today for instance, we recited psalm 40 by full verse and in a very even rhythm.   The monks of St. John’s collegesounded more like this.   I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry, (pause 3 seconds) He drew me up from the desolate pit; Out of the miry bog  (pause 3 sec) and set my feet upon a rock, Making my steps secure.  (pause 3 sec) He put a new song of praise in my mouth,   This changed how I read the psalms, because I had to drop old habits and pay close attention to the words and the timing.  Changing the rhythm and slowing it down really impacted how I heard, listened and spoke each …..and ….every…..word.  They became more intentional and I was able to interact more fully in the psalms. There are 150 psalms in the bible and we read one each week. The psalms contain several types or themes, but all deal with how the people of God react and relate to God.  There are hymns of Lament, like today's psalm 40 “Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me, let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever. Laments express the deep sorrow or troubles of a nation and ask for God’s help; There are Royal psalms of enthronement which enjoin God to bless the king and his kingdom.  There are psalms of thanksgiving which thank God for the wonder of blessings and answered prayers, such as psalm 138 “I thank you, Lord, with all my heart; you answered me when I called to you and with your strength you strengthened me.” There are Psalms of praise that extol the virtues, the glory of God and our response of love. Each of these types of Psalms are a response to the varieties of circumstances the Psalmist finds themselves in, and the psalm is an expression of their reaction to those circumstances. Thus, contained in the psalms are all the emotional depth that we can give to God, the whole depth and breadth of the human relationship are contained in these 150 Psalms. And of course, as they are expressing the depth of human emotion, they historically were sung.  In fact, in several churches, including Calvinistic churches there are no hymns sung, only psalms.  Calvin wrote "When we have looked thoroughly everywhere and searched high and low, we shall find no better songs nor more appropriate to the purpose than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him" ("Epistle to the Reader," in The Form of Church Prayers). Singing the psalms is an ancient Hebrew and Christian practice common in denominations ranging from Presbyterians to Catholics.  Including and especially the monastic tradition, Anglicans and Catholic.  Even if the psalms aren’t sung, like at St. John’s Abbey, they are read with intentionality and feeling. Which is how I feel they should be read, as if you are pouring out your soul to God. Whether it be in praise as in psalm 100 “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.”, or in hope such as in Psalm 121 “I will lift my eyes to the hills- from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”. Even in the midst of anger and frustration like the psalms that rage against enemies, Psalm 109 for instance “May his days be few; may another take his office! May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!” Clearly someone was angry! Or perhaps the most depressing of the Psalms, psalm 88 which speaks of being overwhelmed, alone, abandoned and ends with the desperate honesty of depression “you have taken from me friend and neighbour- darkness is my closest friend.”             Raw emotion spoken in truth and with force into the ears of God…150 psalms.  Speaking out in detail the intimacy of our relationship with God. Yet, very often I find that we in the modern church tend to neglect the psalms; their rich history and blessings that they contain.  Even our lectionary, which lays out what we read from scripture each Sunday, doesn’t include all the psalms. So, in the changing course of history, when we’ve moved from public prayer 2-3 times a day to worship services only on a Sunday, we’ve also moved from reciting all the psalms in a 30 day period, to the sad state of not even managing all the psalms over a 3 year period. It is a shame, and more than that, it creates a disconnect.  Because the psalms demonstrate such an emotional connection with God, and because we take scripture as the guide book on how to be a faithful person, missing out on the psalms creates a hole within our expression of faith. There are so many people I talk to, who think they cannot be angry at God, or that they aren’t allowed to cry out for justice or weep in despair or cray out in  anger at God when they lose a loved one.  People who throughout their lifelong Christian education have learned to approach God in a very solemn and sedate manner. That human emotion and passion is somehow inappropriate if directed to God, or heaven forbid AT God. It almost seems that we’ve been taught that good Christian children must be seen and not heard, that talking back to God was punishable much like talking back to a parent.  It is as if the way we learned to behave as children and parents, we have transposed to our relationship with God. Clearly, we aren’t as familiar with our psalms as we should be; psalms which give plenty of examples of God’s people giving God all sorts of back talk as well as praise.  And not knowing our psalms, we miss out on examples of how to relate to God, and we all miss out on ways in which we can reach out to God. We miss out on the examples given to us of how humanity and divinity can meet…honestly, intimately and fiercely. We miss out on the idea, the theology, that all our lives can be psalms.  The joy we give thanks for, the sun we praise God for, the injustices we shake our fists at God in helplessness for.  Our lives are psalms that live and breathe and in reading the psalms of others we learn to express our own faith with God honestly. We learn by example how to express to God our love and praise, our fears and anxieties, our pain and our joys, our devotion and faith.  In our own unique ways we can communicate our emotions to God, express our faith with intimate and fierce passion, or quiet and meditative praise.  We can speak to God in the same ways our psalmist do, in the same ways God wishes to hear us.  The psalms are a blessings and through them we are blessed and by living in same expressive manner we can grow closer in each of our relationships with God. So, the next time you feel something and want to shout from the roof tops, feel free and call out to God all the depth of human emotion without fear. Don’t worry, God can take it. Amen