The Between Heaven and Mirth Twitter Book Club continues this week with our third excerpt, below. Join the conversation by reading the excerpt and tweeting a response, or a question for author Father Jim Martin – and don’t forget to include the #patheosmirth hashtag! You can follow the whole Twitter conversation here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23patheosmirth
Between Heaven and Mirth, by James Martin, SJ
Reprinted with permission from HarperOne Publishers
Excerpt 3 – pp. 62-63
One of my favorite sources of laughter is the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Briefly put, the British comedy is based on the story of King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper. Like all the Python movies, Holy Grail is a mashup of surprising scholarship (it hews closely to the legend of Arthur) and sublime silliness (it features a “killer rabbit”). It may be the funniest movie ever made.
At one point Arthur and the knights of the Round Table are visited by a dazzling vision of God, who appears in the heavens framed by fluffy white clouds and wearing a bejeweled crown.
“Arthur, Arthur, King of the Britons!” he thunders. When King Arthur bows down, God reacts in an unexpected manner.
“Oh, don’t grovel!” says God. “If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s people groveling!” Apparently, God doesn’t like people Apologizing either. “Every time I try to talk to someone it’s ‘Sorry this’ and ‘Forgive me that’ and ‘I’m not worthy.’ ”
In response, King Arthur adopts a reverent pose.
“What are you doing now?” shouts God.
“I’m averting my eyes, O Lord,” says Arthur.
“Well, don’t!” says God. “It’s like those miserable psalms. They’re so depressing!”
Yes, those miserable psalms. So depressing. That’s a popular conception of the psalms: always lamenting some woe that has befallen the people of Israel, mourning over the sad days, repenting of sinfulness, and weeping “by the rivers of Babylon.” There is, in fact, an entire category of psalms called the “psalms of lament.”
There are, however, several other categories of psalms. Scholarly commentaries note a wide variety of typologies: “royal psalms,” in which the king speaks; “wisdom psalms,” which are connected with wisdom literature from the Old Testament and offer advice and counsel; “liturgical psalms,” which played a role in ancient worship services; and “historical psalms,” which recount narratives of the people of Israel.
But there is another important category called “praise psalms.” One Bible commentary lists three parts to a psalm of praise: an introduction that sets a “tone of praise”; the body of the text, in which the reasons for praising God are listed; and a conclusion that often includes a “wish or blessing.”
Central in most praise psalms is joy. Indeed, finding joy in the psalms is not hard at all; the very first word in the very first psalm is “happy.” “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,” says Psalm 1, “but their delight is in the law of the Lord.” You don’t have to look hard in the psalms for joy, happiness, and delight, which flow naturally from gratitude to God.
Do you find the Bible depressing? Tweet your response — or ask a question of the author — and include the hashtag #patheosmirth to join the Twitter book club. Our next excerpt will be posted Wednesday.
Buy the book — Between Heaven and Mirth — here.