Psalms are interwoven into Jewish liturgies, and serve numerous roles in many Jewish rites. However, while psalms themselves are cemented within the Jewish tradition, the actual language of the individual psalms themselves has proven to be far more fluid. For example, the well-known Psalm 23 exudes simplicity when read in Hebrew, while the later King James translation used in Christian worship gives it much more flowery language. The fact that that psalms can be interpreted in a variety of ways, though, actually works in their favor when it comes to using them as outreach tools: their language can be tailored to fit the vocabularies of many different demographics, making psalms the perfect choice when looking for texts that can help lower barriers and unite rather than separate.
Taking that idea a step further, there are some who are now attempting to use the outreach potential of psalms in a way that draws in young people. Playing on the growing interest in hip-hop culture, these psalms infuse ancient ideas with modern language. Much like music that crosses from one genre to another, this might be the ultimate example of crossover liturgy. The psalm that follows was written by the Rev. Tommy Kyllonen whose Crossover Community Church in Tampa, Florida has gained quite a following (and we have edited it somewhat to take out some of the gender-specificity). While perhaps not for everyone, it does serve as an example of the way psalms can be used to express age-old ideas in more contemporary fashion:
You allow me to chill.
You keep me from being heated/ and allows me to breathe easy.
You guide my life so that I can/ represent and give shout outs in Your name.
And even though I walk through the hood of death,
I don’t back down, for You have my back.
The fact that You have me/ covered allows me to chill.
You provide me with back-up/ in front of player-haters, / and I know that I am a baler and life will be phat.
I fall back in the Lord’s crib for the rest of my life.
As we are trying to reach younger people whose feet are planted in popular culture, perhaps this kind of crossover liturgy will help us find way to do so, and lead to greater engagement in the future.
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