Season after Pentecost (Proper 17 [22]): The Psalm Passage – From praise to puzzlement to praise; a movement of the spirit

O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.” (Psalms 105:1)

I am often impressed and stand in awe of the Revised Common Lectionary’s matching of various types of scripture passages. This week especially the Psalm’s passage seems to be right in line with the Old Testament reading. Often the Gospel passages and the Epistle passages are in harmony with each other or other readings for the week. It actually makes writing and commenting on them fairly simple and straightforward. Other weeks I struggle to make matches and connections. But then, I do not expect it to be easy. And I do enjoy the challenge that it can bring. Either way – challenge or ease – I praise the Lord!

“Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.” (Verse 2)

Do you sing to the Lord, beloved and gentle reader? I am reminded of the non-scriptural post I wrote last week about my physical/medical health. It was not a cheery posting. And as I sit to write about the psalms passage I am keenly aware of the dichotomy of the two. I need to keep this in mind – that on the same blog site I write two different and sometimes contrary content. It makes me wonder how I reconcile the two aspects of me. Maybe it makes you wonder too, beloved and gentle reader.

All I can do . . . . say I stand with Paul when he says that he boasts of the Lord and not himself. And that the Lord had given him grace and strength sufficient to deal with the “thorns” in his side. If I tell you, beloved and gentle readers, of the difficulties I have . . . I try to balance it out by saying how my faith has helped and supported me.

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” (Verse 3)

Because, if have survived thus far, and survive in the future . . . . it is only because the Lord is with me.

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,” (Verses 4 – 5)

It is not because I have done anything special to merit this favor of the Lord, or that my future is destined to show any remarkable accomplishment. The Lord’s favor and blessing, support and help, is available to all believers.

“O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.” (Verse 6)

When Joseph moved his family to Egypt it was, as I have said before, a major shift in the story of God’s called and chosen people. The land they had lived in had reached a crisis point because of the famine, and a system more diverse and complex than their own was needed to help them survive. So the Lord God moved them to Egypt. At least that is what we can assume. Can’t we?


“Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham. And the LORD made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes,” (Verses 23 – 24)

Or was it that Joseph made a pest of himself, causing his brothers to be determined to get rid of him the best way possible at the time, and it just HAPPENED that traders bound for Egypt took Joseph along. What was the exact cause and effect, action and result, that made this change in the story of God’s called and chosen people?

“whose hearts he then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” (Verse 25)

And what about the circumstance of our lives? Are they a series of “cause and effect” events that are tied to the actions of humanity and society as a whole? Or does the Lord God lead us to our “own Egypt” where things happen to us that we need rescue from?

“He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron whom he had chosen.” (Verse 26)

How are we to parse this out, beloved and gentle reader? Could it be that our actions in our lives or in the lives of others that cause problems and struggles? Or do circumstances beyond our control toss us hither and yon until we are dizzy with the experience? To be very honest, I do not know.

It would be easy, and too easy, to say the good things in our lives are because of our good decisions and the Divine smiling on us. Because then we might be tempted to say the bad things in our life are things we have done to ourselves. And the Divine punishing us for our bad actions and decisions.

Or are they things that have been to us? And if done to us, by enemies that are set against us? If that is so, we would we and should we love these enemies, as Jesus the Christ told us to? And if our suffering and misfortune is because the Divine has frowned on us and condemned us to our “own Egypt” why would we love the Divine?

Many commentators and commentaries tell us the misfortune and suffering of the Hebrews / Israelites / Jews was because they did not follow the Lord God and the Divine’s commandments and guidance. A very unforgiving personality for a Divine God.

But yet Jesus is presented as totally forgiving and understanding of human frailty and failure offering chance upon chance of salvation and redemption. Who could fail to love a Divine God like that?

And, finally, am I the only person (that I know of) who sees the utter complexity and paradox of the story of the Lord God’s chosen and called people as it is told in the Old Testament?

The final verse of this psalms passage is . . .

“Praise the LORD! “ (Verse 45b)

Psalm 105 in its entirety praises God for rescuing and delivering the Israelites / Hebrews from Egypt and the cruel taskmasters there. The continuing and unfolding story of the called and chosen people of God continues, and it is not always a pleasant story. The same could be said of modern times.

But what does cause me to “Praise the Lord” (because I do beloved and gentle reader) is that I can ask such questions, query the Lord, and ask for understanding. Because when you set God outside of your daily life and experience, you can attribute all sorts of things to that God. But when you hold God close in your daily walk, and believe that God is there, you don’t feel as if that God is against you but for you. And suddenly it does not matter if the troubles in you life come from your own self or the people and world around you. Because you know . . . that the Lord who is with you wants the best for you, even if it seems like the worst is happening.

So yes, I do have very diverse postings. But when it comes down to it, it comes from the same source. And for the same purpose – to make my way in this world following the Lord God that I utterly believe in and need. Selah!

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Season after Pentecost (Proper 16 [21]): The Psalm Passage – A Preacher and Seeker dialog dedicated to those who stand for peace and compassion

Preacher: “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side — let Israel now say – “
Seeker: If the Lord God had not been standing with us . . .
Preacher: “ . . . if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, . . “

Seeker: If the Lord God had not been at our side . . .
Preacher: “. . then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;”
Seeker:
But we were used and abused, attacked, wounded and some killed! Where was the Lord God then?! Why were some of our number allowed to suffer?! Why were we not protected!
Preacher: “then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;”

Seeker: When one among our number is lost, we mourn. When two have us have been taken away, we wail and weep. Those who have been lost, are remembered and honored for their sacrifice and courage. We ask and plead, where was the Lord?
Preacher: “then over us would have gone the raging waters.”
Seeker:
It is true, there is a strong remnant left. Our courage has not fled from our spirits, and our resolve is greater than ever. We gather together our number, and fortify each other, lifting up our spirits and vowing to remain strong.
Preacher: “Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.”

Seeker: Our foes and oppressors have bitten and gnawed at us, but we are resolute. Our ranks may be thin, but our spirit is strong. We will not be taken over.
Preacher: “We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.”

Seeker: Our faith and hope has not been captured or dissolved. We will rise up and stand strong against those who attack us and hate us.
Preacher: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124)

Seeker: Blessed it be the Lord who has taught us the strength of peace and compassion. We live our lives here, on earth. But the greater reward will come in the life hereafter. Now we face trial and tribulation. Those who have gone ahead of us, wait for us in the shalom of the Lord. We will stand tall, and will not be dissuaded from the course our Lord God has set before us. We are not alone, for the Lord God is with us and holds us until this time is over. Then we may rest also in the Lord God’s shalom. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 16 [21]): The Psalm Passage – The fates turn on the Israelites

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”(Exodus 1:8)

We now start down another long road of the story of God’s called and chosen people. It has often been joked by Jews that they sometimes wish God would chose someone else! It is bitter humor. The sentiment has at times been shared by other people called out by God. Because being called out by God can often mean the powers and principalities are set against one. I do have to wonder however, why God’s chosen people were allowed lead into such trying circumstances.

“He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.” (Verses 9 – 12)

Overlords and rulers being ruthless over those who are helpless to defend themselves. It is a story told over and over, in differing places and at differing times. And in different cultures. It is tragedy that branches from ancient times to modern times. One people oppressing and subjugating another. Just tell me when it sounds familiar to you, beloved reader, and I will stop pounding it into your minds.


“The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.” (Verses 13 – 14)

Many terrible things are done out of fear, and misunderstanding. Once we see people as “things” instead of kindred souls and spirits deserving of respect, dignity, and acceptance . . . a great many things are tolerated and condoned.

“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?”
The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” (Verses 15 – 21)

As I am sitting here and thinking about these things, I can’t help but remember all the times in the Old Testaments that the Israelites, the Hebrews, and the Jews were told to recall their time in Egypt as a reason to do a thing or an obey a law. I have often thought of the Old Testament as the story of a people learning what it means to be called by God. Not a fully formed and realized people, but learning what it means to follow the One God. Mighty lessons needed to be learned, and the people seemed at times to be slow to learn the lessons.

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”(Verse 22)

Did you notice, beloved reader, that the Israelites are now called the Hebrews. I do not know how many years it was until the new king of Egypt “did not know Joseph.” It must have been several generations for the family of Israel (Jacob) to become a nation. The Israelites – now Hebrews – still remembered the families they were from.

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.” (Chapter 2, verses 1 – 4)

This was Moses. Proof that the Lord God has not forgetting the called and chosen people. That they were still chosen by God, and still under the Divine Eye. A lesson to us, beloved reader, that even in our trials and tribulations that we are still under the Divine Eye, and still within the Lord’s heart.

“The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.” (Verses 5 – 8)

You may be thinking lucky Moses and lucky Moses’ mother, and sharp thinking Moses’ sister. But let me remind you, beloved reader, this happened because the Pharaoh’s daughter also thought of Moses as a “thing”, something to be cared for but it did not matter to get Moses back to the correct family. Any family and nurse would due.

“Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Verses 9 – 10)

Grown up does not mean an adult, but weaned and capable of eating solid food. The Pharaoh’s daughter took another woman’s young child for her own. That is not to say she did not have compassion on the infant child, saving it from the river and insuring its welfare. Surely she was aware of her father’s edict about male Hebrew children. And she evidently did want to save the child from an uncertain future. But neither did she let Moses grow up with his own people but took him as her own son, turning her back on his heritage.

But if Moses was poorly used by the Egyptians, he was never far from the Lord God . . . as his story will show.

We too, beloved reader, are never far from the Lord God. And I am reminded again that this lectionary year has the theme of new believers. As the Hebrews were new to being God’s people (as the extended story will show) new Christian believers are new to Christian faith too. There is many stories of difficult times amongst new Christians. Trust that none of them are far from God’s concern. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Psalm Passage – Seek and treasure harmony where you find it

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

While the psalmist might have had his own and close-by family in mind, these verses are perfect for the reunion of Joseph and his family. And their moving to a place and culture that had abundant resources. I am sure Joseph and his father Israel thought that the move to Egypt would be good for them and the coming generations, a blessing and life forevermore. But we, beloved reader, are keenly aware (or should be) that any material abundance in this world will not last and transfer over to the world to come. And that is where our true home is.

I was reminded of this by a FB firend who was lamenting that the world we live in now, and how everyone seems so eager and set upon sharing their discontent. That there is no acceptance of differing opinions, and that it seems in the world at large whoever disagrees with you “must be” bullied and shouted down. That there is, in a word, no unity.

While the psalmist may mean “kindred” to be family related by blood or marriage, the broader meaning is the family of God, humanity. There is the “good” and “pleasant” of life together. It is in shalom (increasingly rare in the world at large) where the Lord’s ordained blessing is most often seen. And if the shalom is truly from the Lord God, you can be assured it is good, pleasant, and blessed.

It would probably be easier for me if I were to draw the curtain and not look down the road to where the Israelites went from honored guest to slaves. But turning a blind eye has never been my forte. Neither has being naïve about the way of the world. I am trying these days to support and nurture the pockets and places of the Lord God’s shalom. Rejoicing where I find it, and trying to maintain those places of peace and blessing.

I had once read that humanity cannot be “peace makers”; that is, we can not create peace but can only keep peace where it is found. That seemed kind of pessimistic to me. But I understand that better now. We can keep the peace that the Lord God has created in us. And we can keep the peace that exists between two or more people who have kept the peace that was created by the Lord God and Jesus Christ in them. But we cannot “make” peace where no peace already exists. That is what I was trying to tell my FB friend. That all we cannot do where there is no peace, is not to create (or not create more) disharmony and disunity.

How good and pleasant it is when humanity lives in unity, harmony and peace. It is precious. May you seek and find that peace, beloved reader. Cherishing and nurturing it, keeping it and holding it holy and sacred. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Epistle Passage – Once again, Paul speaks forth

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” (Romans 11:1-2a)

Paul, being a Jew and standing firm in that identity, does not believe God can be seen as starting over called a new people. But the Jewish people are not the only ones who are inheritors of God’s favor and blessing. Those blessings are not given lightly, as Paul says further on in the passage.

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Verse 29)

What was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and brought about through Joseph and his brothers will not be taken away. But it as been expanded to cover more people, all people actually.

“Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.” (Verses 30 – 31)

Now these verses are interesting. Paul’s audience, the Gentiles, were at one time disobedient and sinful. But through Jesus’ act salvation and mercy they were redeemed. Paul contends (or at least that is one impression one subscribe to) that the Jews can see what has been given to the Gentiles and still claim it for themselves.

As strict as Paul can be at times, he is all for second chances as he was given a second chance.

“For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” (Verse 32)

It is interesting to think and consider how Paul who was once Saul – how his life influenced his preaching and teaching. It would not make so much difference if Paul had been no major a teacher than some more contemporary preachers; even considering such preachers as Billy Graham or other such preachers of renown. You see, Paul did not just preach but established scripture. His life experiences and perspective crafted theology as it is taught. And every once in a while that realization creeps under my skin and just itches! I am not saying Paul is wrong; just that the twists and turns of his life have impacted almost 2000 years of Christianity.

And I would go from that point to mount my soapbox about Paul. But the other thing I remember is that Paul never meant to be so influential. So there you are. Paul speaks forth, and we diligently take note.

It is true, we see grace and mercy lived out in the lives of others, and we covet it for ourselves. It is true that everyone has been disobedient, and the Lord God grants mercy to us all. And it is very true that the blessings, gifts, grace, mercy and calling of the Lord God stand forever. Furthermore, beloved reader, it is very very true that no person or group of people have been rejected by the Lord God. No matter their lineage or pedigree, no person is accepted by the Lord God on that basis alone. Nor are they rejected because of lineage, pedigree or self-identification. All are eligible for grace and mercy upon confession of and forgiveness from the Lord God. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 14 [19]): The Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker recite praises to the Lord concerning Joseph

Preacher: “O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.”
Seeker: Praise the Lord, for our God has been mighty amongst us and has shown mercy, grace and justice to the people.
Preacher: “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.”

Seeker: I will praise the Lord’s name and tell of the wonders that have been done on my behalf!
Preacher: “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”

Seeker: I cried out to the Lord, my Lord God, and I was answered. I searched for assurance and my soul was calmed. My heart and soul felt heavy, and my spirit was in a dark place. But the Lord brought light, and my gloom vanished. Now I rejoice for I dwell within the Lord’s favor and love.
Preacher: “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.”

Seeker: I sought the Lord when I was weak, my strength nearly gone. My knees were weak and shook beneath me. My arms were tired, and eyes closed in fatigue. The Lord gave me rest, and revived me. Now I sing the Lord’s praises and my body is filled with the strength of the Lord.
Preacher: “Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.”

Seeker: I have read stories of the Lord’s mercy and favor. It is good news to my ears that Lord does not abandon the Divine’s children that have been called out.
Preacher: “When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.”

Seeker: Joseph was taken from his family had settled, and traveled to a distant land. But the Lord was with him.
Preacher: “His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD kept testing him.”

Seeker: Joseph was sorely tested, refined in the fires of tribulation. But his spirit shone bright because the Lord was with him.
Preacher: “The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.”

Seeker: Joseph worked under the king’s supervision, but he served the Lord first.
Preacher: “He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions, to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.”

Seeker: Joseph accomplished many things, and received great honor. He extended a compassionate hand to his family, and the people who lived in the land of famine received relief. Joseph honored to the Name of the Lord, and the Lord was faithful in the promises given to Joseph’s family.
Preacher: “Praise the LORD!“

(Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b)

Season after Pentecost (Proper 13 [18]): The Psalm Passage – Petitioning the Lord God on the basis of what will be in the future

Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.” (Psalm 17:1)

While this psalm is being used in conjunction with the story of Jacob awaiting the morning when he will see his brother Esau for the first time in over fourteen years, I am mindful that it is most likely King David who wrote this psalm. While Jacob might have thought about this sort of thing during his fourteen plus years away from home, it is David’s contention of freedom from deceit we are reading.

But we can let it be our thoughts and words. And it is probably a good follow up to yesterday’s reflection on the passage from Matthew where I was talking about the Divine non-sinful nature of Jesus in comparison to us.

“From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.
If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.” (Verses 2 – 3)

It is interesting to set these verses against the Lord’s prayer, in that section where the pray-er asks the Lord to forgive sins/trespasses/transgressions as others who have wronged the person praying are forgiven. But that is the position and contention of most Christians, that we have not sinned or transgressed. It depends, beloved reader, on who is defining the transgression.

“As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” (Verses 4 – 5)

“As for what others do” . . . . . that is a very Old Testament perspective. ‘I am clean, O Lord! Others are dirty!” The Lord God judges each individual’s heart. We are not compared against one another. But in the Eyes of the Perfect and Divine Lord, everyone has fallen short.

“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.” (Verses 6 – 7)

This is the more truer part of this psalm/prayer. It is not because of our relative sin to other people that we are saved and loved. And it is not really that we are only the modest mildly of “bad” people. The Lord God’s steadfast love is for everyone. As is refuge from one’s adversaries.

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” (Verse 15)

Here again we have the protestation of the psalmist that he is righteous (no, it is not God’s righteousness that is meant), and because of this righteousness he expects to see the Lord God.

I probably would not have made an issue of this psalm if I had not written as I did yesterday. And not if I had not made note of Jacob’s missteps in relating to his family. And, furthermore, not if I had not been reading about how sin is the Eye of the Lord God as the beholder. All of these things I have lead me to comment as I have.

The psalmist also touches on the reality that the Lord God is ready, able and willing to forgive us for all of our sins. That our lips are only free from deceit because of God’s grace and mercy, and the atonement of Christ. The psalmist and Jacob, and all of the rest of rely on the Lord God’s plan for salvation. From the perspective of the psalmist, that is yet to come. We know it as a reality. So rather than faulting the presumption of the psalmist (when all is said and done) let us commend his faith that the Lord God will undertake for him, and for all of us. Selah!