First off, we will have Sunday School this week, even though we have a 11AM joint service. We will meet before service at 10AM in the library.
Background. This week we tackle perhaps the best-known Psalm to Christians- Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd. It actually is a very unusual Psalm in two ways. First, there are many common images of God in the Psalms, but a shepherd is not one of them! It is in two other Psalms (28:19 and 80:1), neither which really explore explicit the role of the shepherd like this one. Additionally, this is a very individual Psalm compared to most which see God in context to his relationship to their community now and in the past. This creates a very intimate caring Psalm about God’s relationship to just one sheep. Not as part of a flock, but as just one sheep protected and guided by one God.
Reading Psalm 23: We will read parts later, but today read your favorite version intact (it is only 6 verses)
Reflection This Psalm is associated with funerals, perhaps because we think of death as so scary- a valley of darkness, and especially want to think of God with us. Or perhaps to acknowledge the role of God in the whole life of a person, as we did with Rosalie last weekend. But this Psalm isn’t about the past or the future, but about now. Do you feel God is shepherding you? Do you feel worthy of that attention of something as unimaginable as God? We don’t know many shepherds. What modern equivalent might there be for shepherd?
Background There are two halves to Psalm 1. There are only 6 verses- the first three are the fate of the blessed, the second 3 are the fate of the wicked. In this one Psalm we have a distillation of a main theme in the Bible and in our relationship with God. In the end it is about justice and fairness and both halves of this can be problematic. Yesterday, we thought about blessed always “prosper”. Today, we read the wicked will be destroyed. Are the wicked destroyed? What is “destruction” in God’s (not our) eyes? Does the idea in John of living in the light versus living in darkness help us rethink about prospering and destruction?
Reading Psalm 1: 4-6
Focus Verse Psalm 1:6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Reflection: We want justice! We want the ‘bad guys’ to suffer and the ‘good guys’ to ride off into the sunset. Many of the Psalmists will lift their fists to the sky demanding justice, or praise God for his punishment of the wicked. This is an honest feeling and God hears it. But how does he respond? What did Jesus say? Was the suffering of the wicked something he gloated over or even wanted? The critical thing is that the Psalmist take this urge for justice and gives it to God, the recognition being it is God’s job. Are you wishing for justice? Does it eat at you to see someone ‘getting away with it’? If you pray that to God, what do you think he says back?
Hello and welcome to the beginning of our Adult Sunday
School on Psalms. We will meet after
church on Sunday (11:30 to 12:30) and everyone is welcome- whether you did
these readings or not, and whether you have come before or not. This is true for every week! As before, we are sending out these emails
pretty broadly, because sometimes people like them even if they aren’t
regularly coming to the class. However,
if you don’t want to get them, just respond to this email and let me know. It
doesn’t affect whether you get the regular church email.
This week we will talk about the beginning of Psalms- Psalm
1. It is actually one I memorized the
beginning of long ago as a sort of calming centering prayer. This book of Psalms was made to support worship,
like our hymnal. So as part of worship-
they are a conversation between people and God, but perhaps franker and on
topics we don’t have in our standard worship, more on that later. But it is important to remember that these
Psalms are mainly words of people reaching to God, and not the words of God
speaking back. We see what they are
feeling and their perspective on what is going on. This is important as we examine our own
feelings and perspectives towards God, but we don’t have to agree with the
Psalmist’s feelings as “right” or ours.
They are marvelously honest though, and through them we can perhaps
become more honest with God too.
Reading Psalms 1:1-3
Focus Verse 1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield
their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do,
This verse is referring to those who delight is in the word
of God and it is central to their lives.
This loving image of nurture and fruitfulness is similar to many we will
encounter in the Psalms. But do we
believe it? Is it too simple? Don’t good people with God in the center of
their lives still suffer? Perhaps the
Psalmist really thought everyone that worships God prospers in all they do, but
it seems unlikely for any person that has any life experience. What could the Psalmist have meant? What does
it mean to prosper and flourish?