Season after Pentecost (Proper 10 [15]) : The Psalm Passage – Summing up the theme for this week, and holy scripture in general

I am having a little bit of a challenge trying to figure out what Psalm passage to us. Normally I would use the one that is linked to the Old Testament passage that I used, but I sort of made use of both. (See Tuesday of this week.) I used the Isaiah passage most overtly, and that selection is tied to Psalm 65: 1 – 13. Psalm 119: 105 – 112 is the passage tied to the passage from Genesis that told the story of Jacob and Esau, or at least the story of how Esau put aside his birthright.

“Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.” (Psalm 65:1 – 2)

You can read/see how this psalm passage relates to the might of the Lord displayed in Isaiah 55.

“When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.” (Verse 2)

Yet, you could also make a case for it relating to Jacob’s and Esau’s story, where Jacob tricked Esau into forfeiting his birthright for food. And then later on in the story (beyond the cited passage) where Jacob deprives Esau of the blessing from their father.

“Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.” (Verse 4)

However, as the passage goes on, the tie to the Isaiah passage does make more sense.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might. You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (Verses 5 – 7)

The psalms passage – being about the Lord God, passing the Lord God, and praying to the Lord God – are however appropriate for every occasion and event. Verse 7 seems especially appropriate, as the Lord God calms all things.

“Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.” (Verses 8 – 10)

Can you hear the echo of the Isaiah passage, beloved reader?

“You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.” (Verses 11 – 13)

In the Revised Common Lectionary the Psalm passage is often a refrain of praise to God, or a petition whose theme often aligns with the other passages for that week. So it is not surprise when the themes between the passages echo each other. And as we read this week, the themes within each week – that is when there are alternate passages in each of the four types of passage (Old Testament, Psalms, Epistle, and Gospel) – also align. Of course, being that everything is from biblical scripture that has as it inspiration the Lord God and the story of the called people of God, there is always a broad common theme.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:105-112)
I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.”

Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 9 [14]) : The Psalm Passage – Being wooed to a new and different kind of love

Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions, follow.” (Psalm 45:10 – 14)

It would seem that the theme for this week is blushing brides coming to their groom. We have Rebekah coming to Isaac; Paul coming willingly but with mixed motivations to Jesus; and the people from the time Jesus walked on earth greeting the Messiah with contrary responses. Well, no one said that marriage and Christian was easy and automatic! There is the newlywed honeymoon period where emotions and starry glow obscure the hard work that needs to be done. The same is true when new believers come to faith, or when established believers go deeper into their faith. But I really do not want to dim the beauty of that moment, coming new understandings.

“With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.” (Verses 15 – 17)

This last portion is not directed to the consort of the king, but to the king himself; that his fame and glory will come from his descendants and not his ancestors. This would lead one to believe, in the context of the passage, that this is a new king, one that does not owe his ascent to previous rulers but has on his own established dominion.

This underlines the direction of the commentary to be towards the understand that the King is the Messiah; and if so, the church is the Bride or consort. And that actually is one image of Jesus Christ and the church which appears several times in the New Testament. But do not let us get side tracked into Christology or theology. We are in a praise passage; and moreover, I not are focusing on the Divine Object of the praise but the one who is praising. The other possible substituted psalm passage fits the direction of my thinking here.

“The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:8-13)

We, beloved reader, are precious to our Lord God and Jesus Christ. Jesus and the Lord God sing a love song to us, and woo us with grace and compassion, love and caring, mercy, forgiveness and grace. Let us not forget one of the main reasons that we come to faith. The love that the Divine shows us draws us in, and the faithfulness that the Divine has towards us binds us in that love.

Yes, as Rebekah showed faith and followed what was the Lord’s plan for her; yes, as our desire to follow the Lord leads us to make choices that our human will would not have thought to do; and yes, we are drawn to a faith that does not seem to coincide with the world is now. Many unusual things are done for love. But the most upside down contrary things are down because of the love of and for the Lord. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 8 [13]) : The Psalm Passages – Rescued from the shakes

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.” (Psalm 13:1-4)

The previous three or four days before I sat down to write this were as good of health days as I have had for a long time. But the morning of the day I sat down to write, I felt the familiar aches and pains that meant another “flare” was coming. While I try to live my live so that I am an enemy to no one, and no one would consider me any enemy, I do have an “enemy” of sorts – my own body. I have several autoimmune diseases.

An autoimmune disease means that for some reason your own body attacks itself; there are many types and kinds of autoimmune diseases. Sometime arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease; it may come with old age or it may start its “corrosive” action at an earlier age. Type 1 diabetes can be considered autoimmune; my type is type 2, but it seems in a causal relationship with my autoimmune diseases. I am part of several support groups that are composed of people who have autoimmune illnesses or who know/support people in their lives who have one or more. In any case when I have flares, which are gradual or sudden increases in symptoms, I am shaken. And it does seem like my “enemy” has prevailed. But the psalmist and I are not alone, as the support groups attest to.

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Verses 5 – 6)

This trust in the Lord and having been dealt with “bountifully” does not mean symptoms go away or that I feel better. “Better” is only a relatively term, and as I have learned again lately, does not last long. I am still able to keep to some sort of a regular schedule and list of accomplishments only because the sum total of my strength, stamina, and endurance does not lay only within my one body but also in the Lord. Over the years where my ability fades off and the Lord’s ability steps in to carry me through has blurred over the years such that I am not sure where one ends and the other begins. And that is why I trust the Lord and trust in the Divine’s steadfast love.

In a sense, we all have an autoimmune disease – we call it “sin” and “human willfulness.” We do things that are hurtful to our soul and spirit, and the soul and spirit of others. We “attack” harmony and the shalom that the Divine wishes for the world. And when the Lord God rescues us and all of humanity, that is the salvation that the psalmist rejoices in. I do too, for that matter.

So I am at peace; the Lord is with me, both for my health and my salvation. The enemy will not, in matters that are most important, prevail. Selah!

 

Addendum: Fifteen minutes after this posting appears, it will also appear on my Pondering From the Pacific blog. Since the posting touches (and more than touches) on my health, I thought it good to post it there also. I hope over time to bring the two blogs closer together in content and focus. Shalom! 

Season after Pentecost (Proper 7 [12]) : The Psalm Passages – A “Shout Out” to the Lord God

If the Old Testament passages take up the plight of those used and downtrodden, subject to censure and disdain, do not be surprised that the Psalm passages are where they ask for help because of their situation. First is the Psalm passage for Hagar’s plight.

Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;
be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long.” (Psalm 86:1-3)

Now Hagar might not have seen herself under the Lord’s protection. She may have thought believe in an all-seeing monotheistic God was Abraham’s thing and not hers. The Genesis passage does NOT say she lifted up her voice to God but that she lifted up her voice and wept.

Although – thinking about it – she was alone, and she and her son were not seen again in the Old Testament . . . how does the writer of Genesis know what became of them? However, if all these things were done under the eye of God, and the writing of them was inspired by the Divine, then we can and must believe that somehow it was known. And that same belief, beloved reader, can allow us to give to Hagar this plea to the Lord.

“Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.” (Verses 4 – 5)

It also occurs to me that this Psalm would work just as well for Abraham and Sarah, at whose hands Hagar and her once-welcomed now disposed of son suffered so much. None of us, beloved reader, live our lives so perfectly that are not in need of the forgiveness of the Lord. That was the alluded to point of what I wrote yesterday. For now though, we are undertaking of Hagar’s cause.

“Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.” Verses 6 – 7)

The Psalms are oft times used for praising the Lord God and giving thanks for what the Divine has done. But there is also a strong tradition of the Psalms being used for supplication and petition. And for many such as Hagar who only have the Lord to appeal to for help and deliverance.

“There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” (Verses 8 – 10)

Maybe Hagar did left up her voice to the Lord God her master, Abraham served. Maybe she did from him faith in the Divine. It is a lesson to us, beloved reader, in our times of despair to turn to the One who will never abandon us, no matter what our present circumstances or the outcome for our human lives.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.
Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.” (Verses 16 – 17)

It is at the end of this passage that the desire is spoken that those who oppress might be made to change their ways. And this desire brings us to the plight and situation of the writer of Jeremiah. As you may remember, Jeremiah was bemoaning his situation in the Old Testament passage of this week.

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.” (Psalm 69: 7-12)

Now, if we are to go along with accepted interpretation, many of the psalms were authored by King David. And he too suffered for living his life according to the word of God. Also true was that he suffered when he deviated from the word of God. His coming back to God was also fraught with difficulty.

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.” (Verses 13 – 18)

It seems to me that both men and women who follow God’s call and set out to live their lives according to God’s leading are subject to problems and difficulties. It seems obvious that when one is living according to the Word of the Lord that one would call upon that same Lord when difficulties and problems arise. May it be true in our lives, that where God leads, we go; and what God calls us to, we do. And so that in times of trouble we call upon that same God, and God will deliver us. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) : The Psalms Passage – Psalm 100 Embedded in Nature

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.”

Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.”

Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.”

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

Trinity Sunday: The Psalm Passage – Knowing & Naming the Divine

Preacher: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Seeker: Who is this Sovereign Lord? What shall we call this Divine Majesty? By what name shall we know and worship this Deity?
Preacher: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.”

Seeker: The young and innocent know the Lord’s name, but we who have maturity and wisdom falter when trying to discern the mystery of the Divine.
Preacher: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”
Seeker:
Yes, does this nameless Lord care about humanity? Is there no aspect of this Deity that has regard for we who dwell in this broken world?
Preacher: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
Seeker:
The Lord God knows us, then, and sees us. We are held tenderly in the Divine’s regard. But what shall we call this Majesty who undertakes for us? How shall we know this Lord in our daily lives?
Preacher: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

Yes, you are right beloved reader, if you think that Seeker’s question was not answered. And that Preacher did not give a description of the Lord God, and the full scope of the name of the Lord. How can one describe the full and complete nature of the Divine? The truth is . . . . even giving the Divine three names does not describe all there is. How can you sum up everything from creation until this present day? What words or group of words can describe the Divine movement that is behind it all? Or, even sufficiently prove that there is a Divine movement – if we are being painfully honest?

We (meaning those who believe as I do) say that the Lord is a Triune God because we believe in the three large movements of the Lord God; Creator, Redeemer, and Presence with us. Under those three very broad categories lies, literally, a whole world of meaning.

May you, beloved reader, be blessed by the Triune God and come to know the Divine in fullness. Selah!

Day of Pentecost: The Psalm Passage – Getting instructions and directions

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalms 104: 24 – 28)

Some years back I wrote a reflection on Jonah and the whale – specifically when Jonah was spit up on the sand and the Lord asked him again to go to Nineveh. I remembered it so strongly that I went back and re-wrote it again, specific to my current situation. Look for it on my other blog, Pondering from the Pacific . The leviathan part always reminds me of whales. And that reminds me of Jonah, and Jonah reminds me of . . .

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” (Verses 29 – 30)

But I am guessing that the Revised Common Lectionary is focused on the “send forth your spirit” part as it pertains to Pentecost. And yes, that was a great time of celebration. But in order to get to the coming of the Spirit part, the disciples/apostles needed to get through the Jesus dying part and then Jesus departing part. Those were hard times, I am sure. I am equally sure that getting to the other side of those experiences made the coming of the Spirit even sweeter. Then they knew what they should be doing, and how to do it. And were empowered and equipped for their calling. My hope and prayer, beloved reader, is that we might all be so prepared and quipped. Selah!

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works — who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD! “ (Verses 30 – 34, 35b)