Psalm 95, 23 March 14

This psalm rewards the reader with new dimensions each reading.

The first half starts with a song, indeed a shout, of praise and thanks to the creator of a fantastic world; and not just any old song but;

let us come before God with thanksgiving / and raise a loud shout with psalms (v. 3)

Writing a psalm that urges us to sing psalms seems a bit like blowing your own trumpet; but we assume many of these songs were familiar as part of the culture of the children of Israel from the days of the exile in Egypt.

Wilderness

So the song dips back in time to remind the reader of those trying days in the wilderness that form the backdrop to Lent, after Pharaoh let the people go – into freedom from slavery, sure, but also into the wilds, deserts and privations. We are reminded of Rachel’s invitation last week for us to present our own wilderness imagery for the season. Australia’s heartlands can be both impressive and fearsome.

But the psalmist goes on to remind us that’s not all. Trials and hardships pass; do not to take the short view for in the long run we shall find peace. The psalm is an encouragement not just to be thankful but also to be humble before God and not to ‘harden our hearts’.

Music

A simple refrain from The emergent psalter using verse 1 may be a good choice:

come let us sing, let us shout for joy

And you may have seen a comment by Rachel on last week’s post with the thoughts:

I like the Everett. I’m also drawn by the refrain at TiS 95 by Michael Perry (though not especially keen on the verses)

In both cases, the verses could well be spoken or sung to a simple tone.

For some additional comment on the readings…

Progressions

Pattern?

Pattern?

Much of science looks at data points to find patterns and progressions. Think of Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, Newton …

If you used the link above to check the psalm text, you will have noticed that the preceding OT reading for Lent 3 is from Exodus 17, where:

The people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (v.3)

By observation, as the scientists would say, we immediately discover a clear connection between the OT reading and the psalm, one of many internal references in scripture but also a conceptual linkage on the part of the designers of the lectionary.

To take it one step further, the succeeding NT reading hinges around that resonant phrase ‘peace with God‘ (Rom. 5:1) reminding us that, whether through a wilderness experience in the dry heartland or not, forgiveness leads to reconciliation and peace – true heartland in a quite different and spiritual sense. Then a long gospel reading expands the theme and pulls our gaze away from ourselves to awareness of the world around us.

There’s truly a nice pattern – even progression and trajectory – in these successive lectionary readings leading us out of the wilderness.

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