Psalm 21: Turning to Praise
Psalm 21, just like Psalm 20, was written for use by the people of Israel when they were gathered together but it makes a natural shift. Where Psalm 20 was a liturgical prayer written for the people to use together in prayer for the king, Psalm 21 offers God thanks and praise for what He has already done for the king.
The two Psalms therefore work well together, allowing a group of people to do two things - to call on God to act, but at the same time recognising that he has already acted. It’s a union I would do well to recognise.
I find it easy to get into a rhythm of asking God for stuff, hoping that I’ll get what I want in life. That’s ok, but if it’s all I’ve got then God just becomes some magic genie that, in my view, should be serving me; fulfilling my desires and wants. I don’t want a God who bows to me - I want a God that I’m compelled to offer my life to. If it’s me he has to bow to then the world is screwed whereas if I’m compelled to serve him, I’ve got some hope.
Psalm 20: Where do we Place Our Trust?
Psalm 20 reads like a benediction for the king of ancient Israel - a liturgical prayer to be used by the community. I can imagine David coming to the temple to offer sacrifices before a war and this being sung/spoken by the community, or maybe upon the coronation of a king. It calls for the king to be heard, protected, supported and blessed by God. It does so based on the assumption that he will place himself in the hands of God.
That assumption comes home to roost in verse 7:
Varanasi and the Aghori
Last night I discovered a video on Vimeo that caught my attention. Created by Cale Glendening, Joey L and Ryan McCarney, it’s a documentary that captures their trip to Varanasi as part of Joey’s latest photo essay, “Holy Men”, with this trip specifically looking at the Aghori men of Hinduism.
My wife and I watched it together. I love the way they approach their subjects as human beings - building relationship and trust.
I’ve been to India and watching them stand on the shore of the Ganges when they arrived in Varanasi immediately brought back sites, smells and more importantly, feelings. Every place has a unique vibe - it’s hard to explain - and India had a very definite vibe, that came rushing back as I watched this doco.
I’m interested in the spirituality of other religions. I’m interested in the overlaps with Christian spirituality and the distinctions. As someone who has become deeply interested in the spirituality of monasticism, the desert and especially a spirituality of mortality, I was intensely intrigued by the approach of the Aghori men to death. Some parts resonated with me, others didn’t. As foreign as it is, I think there is something there for us to learn from. It’s worth watching but be warned, there are some dark parts that may be unsettling.
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Varanasi is a whole other world away from what most of us experience in our daily lives. Leave a comment to let me know what you think about what you see.
The cinematography is amazing and Joey’s photography is sublime. For that reason it’s worth watching in full screen on the biggest screen you can muster.
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
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 11: Standing our Ground
Psalm 11 gives us David willing to stand his ground when everything seems stacked against him. He had people telling him to run to the hills because there were others out to destroy those who followed God. It sounds like the whole nation had been shaken. It would make sense to leave and chase after safety.
How often are our lives like that – everything seems stacked against us and the trouble keeps coming? How often does it seem like there’s nothing left to do but get out? I’ve got friends in other parts of the world in drawn out conflict zones who feel like that often – their efforts seem useless, it’s tough and they want to get out… but they hang in there.
Psalm 10: Hope Is…
Today’s reflection focuses on Psalm 10. It has fast become one of my favourites.
Psalm 10 begins with such a human cry, echoed by Jesus on the cross, ‘Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’ It’s broken, it’s honest and it expresses the sense of helplessness in the face of what seems hopeless.
Verses 2-11 share frustration at the state of how things seem to be - a state many of us can relate to. It gives us the wicked man. This could be a person, a nation, an institution, a system… anything that preys on the weak. This wicked man seems to get away with injustice, revelling in his own pleasure and delighting in getting away with oppressing the poor and the weak.
Verses 7-11 are brutal. They capture the unrelenting evil of injustice. They capture how the weak and poor are crippled by those who pursue gain at the expense of others.
The Message shows us that brutality:
Psalm 9: Natural Consequence
In Psalm 9 there is a specific piece that stood out to me in my contemplation with the passage this morning.
There are interesting discussions to be had about whether or not Psalm 9 and 10 should be considered one unit or not. The argument for unity is founded in the fact that the two work together as an acrostic poem, working their way through the alphabet of the original language. Psalm 10 begins with the letter after the one Psalm 9 ends on. In most Bibles they are treated as separate Psalms though, that’s because the subject matter is very different. They both deal with justice and enemies as previous Psalms have, but they do it quite differently and therefore it’s hard to place them together. That’s a discussion for the scholars - it’s the subject matter that interests me.
It is verses 15-16 that got my attention this morning. They reflect Psalm 7:15-16. Both use a description of those who do wrong (in the case of Psalm 9 they are nations) preparing traps and getting caught in their own snares. Verse 16 interjects the consequences of their actions with “the Lord is known by his acts of justice…” and finishes with an affirmation of the wicked being caught in their own traps. Verse 17 further cements their fate.
Which Bit of the Bible do You Struggle With?
I’ve got a question for you, born from my own curiosity. I’m intrigued to know which part of the Bible you struggle with the most? Maybe it’s a piece that’s hard to believe, it makes you cringe, you wish it wasn’t in there - you decide. Believer or not, which part of it do you struggle with the most?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
The Confession of a Self Proclaimed Know-All
I’ve been considering a conversation I was in the middle of a little while ago. It was a difficult, long, convoluted conversation that gave me a headache. It’s one particular part of that conversation that has stuck with me.
In the conversation I made a veiled confession and it was pounced on because it was a moment of weakness.