Artist Ryan Stander created a thoughtful piece in response to the theme of “Memory” from Psalm 88 and Psalm 106.
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1 O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:
5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.
8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.
9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD , I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.
10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.
11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But unto thee have I cried, O LORD ; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.
14 LORD , why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?
15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.
1 Praise ye the LORD . O give thanks unto the LORD ; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD ? who can shew forth all his praise?
3 Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.
4 Remember me, O LORD , with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation;
5 That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.
6 We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.
7 Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea.
8 Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.
9 He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.
10 And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them , and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left.
12 Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.
13 They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
15 And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
16 They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD .
17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram.
18 And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.
19 They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.
20 Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.
21 They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;
22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.
23 Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them .
24 Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word:
25 But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD .
26 Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness:
27 To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.
28 They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.
29 Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
30 Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.
32 They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes:
33 Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.
34 They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them:
35 But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.
36 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,
38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.
40 Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.
41 And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.
43 Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry:
45 And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.
46 He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.
47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.
48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD .
Since seminary, the Psalms have had a special place in my heart and theology particularly the provocative lament and complaint Psalms as they draw upon memory in such interesting ways. Faith and our utter need for salvation allows Christians to boldly approach God baring the ugly realities of all that is wrong in the world to the only One who can set things aright. The psalmist’s testimonies left nothing out of their purview: praise and bitterness, hope and fear, life and death. In addition to the psalms that convey this emotional gamut, some also contain brute and penetrating questions of Yahweh: Why? Where? How long? These laments (and these questions of complaint) are firmly rooted in Israel’s covenant with God, utilizing memory of the both the individual and community. But more provocatively, many of the Psalms remind God of God’s own past promises and salvific actions. In other words, they remind God to be God.
I chose two Psalms to inspire this work, Psalm 88 and 106. Both use memory in curious ways as alluded to above. The psalmist in Psalm 88 recalls his current desperate circumstances and fears that having been forgotten by God. He then challenges God to recall God’s own attributes and past actions of “wonder”, “steadfast love”, and “faithfulness” in efforts to stir God into saving action once again. Psalm 106 recalls both sides of the covenant: God’s salvific actions on Israel’s behalf and Israel’s efforts and failures to live out their part of the covenant relationship. The psalmist says, “For their sake he remembered his covenant, and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
Originally from northwest Iowa, Ryan Stander is a fairly recent transplant to the plains of North Dakota. His education has alternated between art and theology with a BA in Art from Northwestern College (IA), an MA in Bible and Theology from Sioux Falls Seminary (SD), and an MFA from the University of North Dakota.
His research brings liturgical theology and the arts into dynamic conversations. In particular, Stander explores how the sacramental imagination, as formed through liturgical participation, engages ideas of place/space, and other cultural forms including the visual arts. As an artist, his work moves between printmaking and photography, with a keen interest in lithography and alternative photographic processes. Thematically, Stander’s work often engages concepts of memory and identity.
Ryan and his wife Karina recently moved to Minot, ND where he serves as an Assistant Professor of Art at Minot State University. Teaching primarily photography, Stander also recently started and now serves as the director for Flat Tail Press, an educational printmaking studio at Minot State University.