Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I am doing a series of sermons on the Psalms over the next couple of months. I am using as one of my guides a book by Dr. Walter Brueggemann. He is a great Old Testament Scholar, who is retired now from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. His book is The Message of the Psalms. The Psalms are the script for spirituality for the Jews and, by adoption, for us Christians. You want to learn how to pray read, pray, the Psalms. Many scholars believe that Psalms 1 and 2 are sort of a preface for the rest of the Psalms. The Psalms are, of course, divided into five sections, just like the five books of the law. Brueggemann says that Psalm 1 is about obedience to God. There are two ways to walk: one, the way of the wicked; the other, the way of the righteous. The one who meditates on the law day and night, the one who meditates on the whole story of God, the Torah, is like a tree planted by the water. The Hebrew word for plant is actually “transplant”. Like a tree transplanted by the water is the righteous one. He/she is blessed. He/she is happy, fulfilled, content. The Psalms begin with obedience and end with Psalm 150 in praise. We go from obedience to praise. There are seasons in life with things are good and right. Breuggemann calls these seasons times of orientation. These are seasons when it all seems to work. Everything is in order and working for our benefit. These are the seasons when most people love to come to church. We think: “I must be doing something right…” So, we worship and are satisfied with life. My friend says: “Life is good.” Then, there are seasons of disorientation. These are seasons when things are not working: sickness, pain, suffering, death, loss. Unfortunately, this is the time when people withdraw from church. Like a cat that gets wounded goes away and stays away until he/she gets better or dies. We are likely to think that God has deserted us in these seasons. We are likely to feel lost, alone, afraid. The Psalms of disorientation give us words to use to express these feelings. Often the Psalms are not about what we ought to feel, but they are about what we really fell: anger, fear, loneliness, despair. Psalm 107 is one of these. It’s one of the worst. Someone who has been violated prays, cries out: “Get the one who did this to me…” Then, says Brueggemann, there are seasons of New Orientation, times when we have come through the difficult times and God has kept his promise to do a new thing. So, we sing Psalm 150: “Halelujah”- “Praise the Lord”. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Were we able to come as we are to church, in the great congregation, and leave whatever it is that we have to bring (anger, fear), then we might be able with outstretched arms to raise them high and say: “Praise the Lord”. I release everything to you, O God, even my wrong feelings and ways. My dream would be of a church where all could come as they are. We could come here to cry and complain to God, and we would come to share all that we are going through, and be able in worship to give it all to God. And, with joy, we would open our arms and hands and release it all with our praise to God. We are standing on the promises of God. Praise the Lord. God can and does do new things with us. What season are you walking through right now? A season of Orientation? A season of Disorientation? Or, a Season of New Orientation? Blessings! Dave Nichols

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