This week we have come to the end of our journey through the Book of Psalms and we had our Top of the Psalms top 10 for St John’s and St Michael’s as well as revealing the Minister’s No1 Top Psalm. The top three voted for by the congregation were: in 3rd place no1, in 2nd place no19 and the top Psalm is Psalm 23. These are some of the comments that went with the votes. No1 ‘it is the gospel in a nutshell’. No19 ‘raises the morale and gives hope for the future.’ No23 ‘wonderful, poetic imagery, which stands for all time.’ The Minister’s favourite is Psalm 100.
Reading & Reflection: Psalm 100. A Psalm of Praise
I want to quickly recap where we began our journey in the book of Psalms, in themselves a journey as they take us through several centuries that the people of Israel journeyed. The final form as we have it today came about when they had returned from their exile experience. As our Bible is presented to us in its current form we find the Book of Psalms at the very centre. The middle book, the beating heart of the scriptures. How fitting as it surely has to be amongst some of the most honest, heartfelt, soul searching pieces of writing anywhere. The innermost thoughts and prayers of the people of the Old Testament are found here and they speak very clearly to our time in history just as they have addressed people’s needs down over the centuries and as each generation has journeyed through their trials, tribulations and celebrations.
We have thought quite a bit about our journeys and how a life of faith is very much a journey with God and with fellow believers, our community of faith. In looking back over a journey you do not have to desire to remain back there but appreciate more a sort of forward motion of moving from the old into the new, from the known into the unknown and from your comfort zone into a place of challenge and I think that is where some people struggle when you speak about moving on in a journey they hear the word challenge and somehow it conjures up negative connotations. Remember God’s people in the Psalms had spent forty years in exile. They have learned new ways of worshipping God as their temple has been destroyed, they are carrying the presence of God with them in the Ark of the Covenant. They lament the destruction of their temple but they realise God can be and is with them wherever they travel.
How does their experience resonate with ours today? Our churches were not destroyed, their doors were temporarily closed. We were not locked out for forty years, we were not even locked out for forty weeks.
Our worshipping of God did not come to end but rather it moved into a new way of being. Has our worship of the physical attributes of the church building and its contents got confused with our worship of God?
All of this leads me to my favourite Psalm.
I was not brought up in a church family, therefor I did not know a lot about the Bible other than the weekly Assembly at the Knox Academy and truth be told not many of us listened to the person addressing us. I got introduced to this Psalm when I was about twenty years old and over the years it has played a big part in my life I got very familiar with its words, in particular the form taken in the hymn, ‘All people that on earth do dwell’. As we have spoken about journeys through life my own journey took a massive change of direction but such is the truth in this Psalm, God gave it to me as he journeyed with me, and it still holds that special place within my heart, albeit I see it in a different light and with a fresh understanding. When taken in its entirety it says, for me, everything that needs to be said about God and me and everyone else and the relationship that we all share in this world.
V1 ‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth’ God created by his own hand all that is seen and unseen. God did not create the barriers that separate us from each other we do that for ourselves.
V2 ‘Worship the Lord with gladness: come before him with joyful songs’. My heart bounces when I come before my God. Even in times of heartache and sadness, God knows these things about us, Worship is intended to be joy filled and God restores gladness to our lives.
V3 ‘Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture’. To know that our God is the Lord of our life. To know that his love for each of us goes so deep, that he claims us as his own. He feeds and nourishes us with all good things.
V4 ‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name’.
The Psalmist undoubtedly is writing about the temple. The exile happened and the people had to learn a new way. I do not think we have to take a literal physical understanding that the gates and the courts are to be specific geographical places. Christ came and brought with him a new way. He left for us his Spirit that blows as the wind, wherever it pleases.
V5 ‘For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever; his faithfulness continues through all generations’.
My/our journey here on earth will without doubt come to an end. But the love that God has for me/you will never die. I/you may have moments when faith wavers.
But the faithfulness of God journeys through all generations.
A Psalm that says to me this is trusting in God and this is God loving me.
A Psalm that says to me shout for joy to the Lord.
A Psalm that says to me God we lead me from one step to the next as we all journey together.
A Psalm that says to me this is everything that I owe to my God.