Psalm 23: The Beauty of Repetition
This reflection on Psalm 23 has next to nothing to do with the Psalm itself and everything to do with another thought it invokes for me.
Psalm 23 would be one of the most well known and repeated Psalms I’ve known in my lifetime. It begins with those words many know so well “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters…” and later “thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff - they comfort me.” (NRSV)
It’s well known because it’s comforting and encouraging. It’s also well known because it gets repeated often. It’s this that I want to reflect on a bit.
I’ve mostly grown up around faith traditions where repetition, except if it’s repeating the chorus of a song over and over and over, has been frowned upon. Using a written liturgy and worse still, largely the same one every week, is considered by many to be lifeless, rote, mindless and dead. The same goes for using the same pre-written prayers regularly. I’ve even heard someone have a go at the Lord’s Prayer being used regularly in worship services.
For Bombing Victims Around the World
If you’re the praying kind, take a moment to pray for the victims of bomb blasts that have made headlines so far in April.
We pray for the victims of the car bomb that went off in central Damascus, Syria, killing 19 and injuring more than 50.
We pray for the victims in the bus that was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, killing 9 and wounding more than 20.
We pray for the victims of the bomb that exploded on a bus in Northwest Pakistan, killing 9 and wounding several.
We pray for the victims of the bomb that was detonated in a political rally in Peshawar, Pakistan that has killed 9 and wounded dozens.
We pray for the victims of the bomb blasts in Boston, USA, killing 3 and injuring over 170.
Each of the victims of all of those atrocious acts, and all of their families and friends, had their lives torn away or irrevocably changed as those bombs exploded. We should grieve for all of them.
Our world knows violence all too well and these are just the tip of the iceberg of terror that rips at the heart of communities around the globe every single day. The terror of violence comes in many forms, some obvious and headlining grabbing as each of these was, and some hidden and insidious.
Though it may not be obvious, we all have an opportunity to respond to violence and combat it by the way we live and act in a world that desperately needs the good of humanity to be so much stronger than acts that seek to tear us down.
As we grieve for the victims of violence may we resolve to not let what violence breeds become us. May all people everywhere who want better for our world resolve to live lives built on the foundations of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
Psalm 17: Questions About King David
I’ve been procrastinating on writing my reflection on Psalm 17 as what sparked for me wasn’t really a reflection on the Psalm but questions about David instead. My ideal is to write on the Psalm but I can’t get away from the questions that sparked for me as I read it.
So here’s the deal, I’m just going to share the questions and if, at some point, a publishing house sees the genius of these reflections - I’m looking at you Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins or any other decent publisher with some smarts - then I’ll come back and rewrite this. If they don’t and it takes till after I pass away from this earth for my genius to be recognised, I’ll write something on Psalm 17 that can be released with the book of reflections that publishing houses will compete over once I’m gone.*
There are days that despite the new life, I feel we are still in a Holy Saturday moment, caught between the grief of the transition and loss of our old life and the hope of new life. The disciples surely felt that way as they were overwhelmed with grief and loss, and suddenly new life was in front of them. Eventually, the disciples began to understand what the new life of Jesus rising from dead meant for them and for the world. I know that with a little help from God, we, too, will understand what the signs of new life mean for us.
I offer all of us this prayer when we attempt to embrace new life in front of us. I find it is a prayer that helps me name the loss of old life while holding, celebrating, and discerning the new life in front of me.
Holy Spirit, strengthen me in… Holy Spirit, guide me in…. Holy Spirit, comfort me in…. Holy Spirit, enlighten me in… dotMagis Blog – IgnatianSpirituality.com
When I start praying for someone and then totally forget their name.
On Staff At A Church is a blog you should follow.
Thanks to Out of Ur for the heads up.
Psalm 13: Help!
I like Psalm 13. I like it because it flies in the face of any nice, neat prayer formula that many people have tried to propose in books (I won’t mention Jabez) and it does away with any idea that life should be happy clappy if we’re following God. Instead it’s real and it’s honest.
It’s pretty simple really, David wants help and is asking for it. His emotion is driving it - stuff what logic and good theology would say (or more to the point, stuff that masquerades as good theology), forget what that warm, smiling, feel good motivational preacher puts out there, this is how he feels.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
We like to hear that God is always present (and I believe he is) but it doesn’t always feel like it. In fact I often feel like I’m in the desert and God is a long way off. In those times doubt is ever present - so are we supposed to pray what some people think is good theology or are we supposed to pray what we actually feel and what’s actually happening for us? Psalm 13 gives permission for the latter. It shows that we can let it all hang out.
Are You Getting it Right When You Pray?
I just read a post over at Not Ashamed of the Gospel. It’s about prayer. The basic idea in the post is that you should always put others before yourself when you pray. It offers an order for how we should prioritise things in prayer - “Father first, others second, you last.” It’s backed up by a good looking vid from Living Waters (Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron) that says that if you focus on prayer for others you’ll forget your own problem. In so doing you’ll become more thankful to God.
I desperately want to agree with the post as I believe our lives should be oriented to others just as Jesus’ was. I want to affirm it because it gives us a formula that encourages us to move beyond being fixated on ourselves. It makes perfect sense. I get the point, understand the sentiment and want to applaud it. The only problem is that when looking at the Bible I can’t entirely agree.
Psalm 8: I Stand in Awe
Psalm 8 is born from a sense of awe. In considering creation - the heavens, the moon, the stars - the work of God, David encounters his own smallness.
“I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?”
-Psalm 8:3-4 (MSG)
In considering his own finiteness within the grandeur of the universe David was brought to a space of worship and awe at the majesty of God and following this, was gripped with the understanding that beings as insignificant as us would be given the privileged position we have. “You put us in charge of your handcrafted world…” (v6).