Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – The gift that the Lord God the Divine is to us

Preacher: “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”
Seeker: Your love, O Lord, is like a soothing balm to my spirit and my soul. My worries melt away and I rest in your grace, mercy, and love.
Preacher: “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.”

Seeker: Many times I feel hurt and oppressed, looked down on and pushed aside. But within Your Sight, O Lord God, I am worthy. You take my side against the hurt and pain in the world. You champion my cause when fate and circumstances have robbed me of my voice and my strength. You lift me up from the depths, dust me off, and then journey with me when I must walk steep, dangerous, and narrow paths!
Preacher: “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

Seeker: I would not last a day, not even an hour, minute, or second without the Lord God. Your love for me, O Lord, washes over me when I am at my driest point. My soul and spirit are protected when in your care.
Preacher: “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”

Seeker: When my soul needs nourishment, you feed me. When my spirit thirsts, you quench my needs. I grow strong feeding on your holy word.
Preacher: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

Seeker: I know my earthly days will come to an end. But I do not fear this. When the lights of this world dim for me, I see most clearly the light of heaven. I place my trust in you, O Lord, that the darkness will not consume me.
Preacher & Seeker: “O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!” ( Psalm 36:5-10)

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First Sunday After Epiphany 2019 – Baptism of the Lord: The Psalm Passage – The Might and Power that the Lord God the Divine is . . . . and other things

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.” (Psalm 29: 1-5)

[Yes, it is a psalm passage; and I still at times struggle with them.]

I am not into “power”, “authority”, and “might” much these days. Maybe the psalmist felt invigorated by thinking of the power of the Lord God. Me, I just feel drained. I know the Lord is all of these things . . . . . and more. But that is not what I am looking for and needing these days.

“He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” (Verses 6 – 9)

If that is an aspect of the Lord God that stirs your blood and causes you to break forth into worship and praise . . . . do so! Some find it, as I said, invigorating that the Lord God is mighty and active in the world. Some find it comforting that the Lord God is in control of nature and that nature accedes to the Lord’s commands.

“The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.” (Verse 10)

The people of Israel and Judah back in the time of Samuel wanted a king that ruled with power, authority, and might. Saul was that sort of king. David was that sort of king. David’s son Solomon was a little different but was mighty and powerful in his own way. So it makes sense that the psalmist would image a Yahweh that was such a Ruler.

As for me these days, it is only in the last verse that the psalmist paints an image of the Divine that resonates with me.

“May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” (Verse 11)

What I need is strength to endure what is in my life now. Not divine/Divine almighty strength – just human strength, endurance and fortitude. And peace. Most definitely peace. The Lord God is that too! Selah!

Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – The Coming of the King and the Messiah; One & the Same?

“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.” (Psalm 72:1-7)

The question that underlines the exegetical understanding of this psalm . . . . what did King David know about the coming Messiah and the tenure of Jesus’ reign, and when did he know it? According to biblical scholars this psalm is written for and about King Solomon as he was coming to reign in his father’s, King David, stead while David was still alive. It is David’s hope and prayer for his son; but it is also (supposedly) looking toward the reign of the Messiah.

“May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Verses 10 – 14)

It is an ambitions for a king, doing all of these things that David lists; being revered amongst (other) earthly kings, looking out for the poor and needy, and undoing the foul outcomes of violence. This sounds like the Messiah that Jesus was. But take note that verses eight and nine are missing – “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.” Not quite as peaceful Jesus like; but wishes that one earthly king might have for another, especially his successor and child.

Now you know, beloved reader, I am sort of a purist when it comes to apply Old Testament prophecy etc to New Testament and Gospel events. I think there should be controlled and well examined cross-over. In the commentary I read there is caution to be aware that David wrote it primarily for his son; but there is also optimism that David might have been looking down the generations to the promised Messiah that came from his line. If he was aware of that. What did King David know, and when did he know it?

But . . . . . there is no harm in saying that everyone should live their life according to the Messiah example and guidance ONCE that example and guidance is made known to them. Not all that King David writes about will be a reality for us – the kings of Sheba and Seba are not going to bring us gifts. But if we can extend compassion and care to others, lighten their load, and ease their pain – we will be fulfilling as much as earthly king could, and in doing so will be glorifying our Lord God. King David would be proud of us! Selah!

Holy Name of Jesus Day & New Year’s Day 2019: The Psalm Passage, the Epistle Passage, & the Old Testament Passage

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 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? 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.
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

I know that in light of some of my posts where I give voice to my discomfort at times with the psalms, it may seem odd that I am using the psalm passage designated for Holy Name of Jesus day. But I think is equally odd is that psalm that is written in praise of Jesus/the Lord God/the Divine’s name seems to make frequent mention of humanity. Does the psalmist mean that the Lord’s name is majestic because of what the Divine has done in creating humanity & nature? If that is so, maybe my latest posted position on the psalms is not so left/right field. (See The template for praising the Lord God for a discussion on the two main categories of praise psalms) The other reason this psalm does not grate on me is because there is not command or exhortation to praise – I can appreciate the psalmist sentiments without feeling like I am being pushed to my knees for a praise that I may not necessarily feel in my heart/soul/spirit.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

In the same way Paul is (gently) drawing our attention to an important piece of theology concerning the name of Jesus the Christ. It gives good evidence why Jesus the Christ’s name should be honored, but it gives the reader/listener room to respond in a way that is real and authentic for them. As I am pondering on this, I am coming to see where some psalms passages can be for me a little too much at times. It is good to praise the Lord God the Divine; and I am coming to believe that each person should do praise to the Lord God the Divine in a way that is genuine and true to them as a believer. A good resolution to have. Which reminds me, this day, January 1st has another name and other attributes. Ironically though, they share Psalm 8 as the psalms passage. Let us see what other passages the RCL has chosen for New Year’s Day.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 8)

What will you do in this new year beloved reader? What will you use your time for? In the past year, I am guessing, there have been times of doing, being, seeing, hearing and experiencing all that the writer of Ecclesiastes mentions. I would hope that some of the negative things you have not seen or heard of; but you probably have. I would fervently hoped that you have not done some of the negative things. May God’s mercy and forgiveness be with you if you have. And so in light of that, I ask again, what will you be doing this year?

“What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.( 9 – 13)

In light of this past year, I think a few more qualifications need to be set along side the writer of Ecclesiastes’ words. I could list them out . . . . but maybe it would be a good exercise and starting point for New Year’s resolutions if you did that yourself beloved reader. If you need a little guidance and parameters, I would refer you back to the passage of Philippians above. Consider obedience as Jesus the Christ exhibited it. And Jesus’ adherence to the spirit (Spirit) and intent of God’s commandments.

In summary beloved reader, may you have a blessed New Year; and as the year unfolds may you bring honor to the name of Jesus and your faith traditions. Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: The Psalm Passage – The template for praising the Lord God

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:1-5)

I have read descriptions of heaven where hosts and choirs of angels are continually raising and singing praises to the Lord God, the Divine. I wouldn’t wonder if those songs and praises sound a lot like the psalm passages. And before I understood that humans who have passed from this life to eternal life do NOT become angels, I thought it must be awful boring to be a part of the angel choir that sings praises . . . . . continually.

I know, beloved reader, that must sound very strange and not a little eerie that I would not want to praise God constantly. Maybe you wonder about the depth and breadth of my faith. It’s not that I don’t believe in praising God, and I do not believe that God is praise worthy; it’s just that there is so much more to the Christian life than just praising.

Most psalm and praise passages commemorate one of two things; who the Divine is and what the Divine has done. Large categories. Important categories.

“He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” (Verses 6 – 10)

The subcategories (broadly defined) of what the Divine has done are creation and salvation; and the two are not exclusive. I am sure somewhere some psalm talks about creation being saved and salvation coming about through creation – or some intermingling there. As to who the Divine is that’s praise worthy – well it would take more room than the entire internet has to list all of that. I mean that truly!

“Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” (Verses 11 – 13)

So maybe the Divine’s praises need to be sung continually by every heavenly voice that is available, in order to cover all the praiseworthiness of the Lord God.

“He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!” (Verse 14)

And I appreciate the psalmist for writing and creating all of the psalms we have in the bible. And others in more modern times who have add to the body of praise writing. And when one stops to consider the salvation aspect and that the Divine the Lord God gave to us Jesus in order that salvation might be accomplished, that alone is worth a couple of eternities of praise.

But as for me, to just and only praise is not nearly enough. Because as I realized when my faith and personal theology developed, praising God is to be such a small slice of what we are called to do. We are to take the example of our praise worthy Lord and to the best of our human abilities live out that holiness and praise worthiness. If the angels and heavenly hosts sing praises to God – we are to be the conduits of the love and compassion, care and care-taking that makes the Lord God praise worthy. How will people who do not know the Lord God know the Divine is worthy of praise if the children of God do not show them?!

Christmas has come and gone for the year. Now is the time to continue our Christian journey. And to beacons of hope, mercy and compassion in the world. So that someone might be moved to say, “Praise God for what the Lord has told you to do for me!” Selah!

Season of Christmas 2018 Year C – Christmas Eve & Christmas Day; Endings, New Beginning & Celebrations

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

This Advent season we have been hearing how the people of Israel and Judah, who were the Divine’s first called and chosen people, desired to be saved and redeemed by Yahweh. They felt lost and forsaken, swept up by the power and politics of the countries and nations surrounding them. They searched for the Divine’s direction and guidance, catching hold of it for a time and then losing it again. They expected the Lord God to swoop down and rescue them, vindicate them for all they had suffered, and punish those who were set against them. But it did not happen that way.

Yes, there were small victories and times of peace that stretched out a generation or two, but never the eternity nor complete shalom they pined for. They felt and believed that there would come a person – no, more than a person, a Messiah – who would straighten things out. Who would smooth out all the rough spots in their faith and make plain how they were to live and worship. And with the Messiah would come the light of understanding and wisdom.

“He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Verses 2 – 5)

But when it came, some did not recognize it. It was not what they thought it would be, or should be. Even when it was presented and explained to them, they did not realize that a new beginning was dawning.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Verses 6 – 9)

The Advent season has been leading up to the birth of the Messiah; a man, but not just a man. Something more. Something that would not come into fruition immediately but would exist along side, until the right time. Advent is about waiting, and waiting for that right time. Not on humanity’s time, but on God’s time. The time of waiting for the coming of the Messiah had ended. Just like the end of Advent has come.

But like so many things, the ending of one thing and the beginning of another is not necessarily back to back. Not necessarily immediate. We know and understand that the birth of Jesus was the beginning; but it was a quiet beginning. Or at least a relatively quite beginning. Just like the birth of any child has its fanfare and celebration, Jesus’ birth burst across the firmament, blazoned across the heavens. And then there was quiet.

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (Verses 10 – 14)

Have you taken note, beloved reader, that the hopes of the Jewish people dwindled down and there were fewer and fewer writings and prophets leading up to the time the Jews were placed under the rule of Roman? By the time of Jesus’ birth the writings of generations before had passed from being “new” to being the long ago history of the people of God.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” ( Isaiah 9:2-7)

We celebrate now what was unknown then. We use scripture, recasting it to reflect the understanding that the Jews hoped for, wished for, and waited for. It is my hope we honor their steadfastness and learned from their mistakes and missteps.

O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The LORD is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.” (Psalm 96)

May we continue the tradition of keeping hope alive, writing about our faith and our faith journey, and celebrating the joyous times in our Christian journey!

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Fourth Sunday: The Psalm Passage – How the Divine’s called and chosen people have, and have not, kept faith (A Preacher and Seeker presentation)

Seeker:“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!”
Preacher: Pay attention to us, O Lord God! Hear us when we cry out to you! We know you are mighty and all powerful! We know you reign over all things!
Seeker: Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Preacher: Divine Lord God, look down on us and see where we are. You know our needs. You know our hearts. Divine Lord God, reach down to us and save us!
Seeker: “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?”
Preacher: Have we angered you Lord God? Have you lost patience with us because for so long we have gone the wrong way and done the wrong thing?
Seeker: “You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.”
Preacher: We weep, Lord God, we weep. All is lost and empty. There is no solace or comfort to be found.
Seeker:You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
Preacher: It seems like everywhere we turn lately, someone is complaining about something. Humanity is turning on it self; neighbor against neighbor, friends turning on each other. Believer shuns believer. And all around us the enemy seems to be closing in.
Seeker: Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:1-7)
Preacher: Lord God, from all over the globe I hear laments such as this. From the time you called Abraham out from his home land your called and chosen people have called on you. Prophets, philosophers, poets, and the common people have lifted their tales of sorrow, claiming they have been abandoned. And maybe they did feel that way. But the birth of Christ Jesus proves that you have heard the weeping and lamenting of your people. You have tried time and time to reach out to them; but they have brushed away the Spirit of the Lord, instead yearning for a more physical interaction with the Divine. So you sent Jesus, Your Divine Face to live amongst Your called and chosen people. And when Jesus returned to you, the Holy Spirit was sent to live among us. Forgive us, O Lord God, if we too have brushed away the Spirit. Forgive us for falling into the same laments as our forebearers did. The words of Jesus have come down to us; the Holy Spirit has instructed us in their meaning. Grant O Lord God that we would learn how to listen to Your Divine Voice! Selah!