Psalm 78, 9 November 2014

Psalm 78 is a plea, a promise and a pledge to tell the old, old stories — for those who went before us, for us, and for those who will follow.

God … appointed a law in Israel and commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children (vv. 5, 6)

This Sunday our children lead us in our gathering, our thoughts and our prayers. Ably guided by some very dedicated mentors, they have frequently surprised and delighted us with the quality and range of their ideas, stories, insights and sentences. This week we are no doubt in for another treat as they become the storytellers.

Just as historical narrative is a central theme in the psalms, so this psalm is pretty much in the middle of the book, which is surely just one big river of stories, tales, and reflections on the flow of history of people seeking divine blessing. Such stories are necessary, says Where the stories begin, a blog by Jan Richardson quoting Psalm 78, and shared for us today by Rev R.

The psalm will be sung in the form of TiS 636 God has spoken, to a great traditional Hasidic Jewish tune.


I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known; we will not hide them (vv. 2-4)

Graffiti on a remnant of the Berlin Wall, East Side Park.

Stories of folly and failure deserve to be told just as much as the heroic or the parable. The psalms pull no punches, but their poetical commentary helps us lift our vision and hopes.

I cannot help but notice that this Sunday is also the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. What a story surrounds that folly, built in 1961 and standing for nearly three decades as an arrogant symbol of human narrowness, selfishness and intolerance.

May barriers fall for us all again on Sunday as stories unfold.

(More on The Berlin Wall …

Soon after the election of John F Kennedy as President of the United States, his first summit meeting with former Allies, now rival Soviets, in neutral Vienna in 1961 went badly. The Americans were on the back foot after the embarrassing Bay of Pigs debacle. During tense bilateral summit discussions Khrushchev continually savaged the younger and inexperienced President, threatening to unilaterally close access by the Allies to free Berlin.

Brandenburg gate
Brandenburg gate

In response to this stand-off and growing numbers of defections from East to West Berlin, barbed wire barriers then The Berlin Wall itself started going up and the border including the landmark Brandenburg Gate was closed by late 1961.

It remained in place, a symbol of the Cold War political, economic and philosophical divide, for 28 years, causing the death of many attempting escape and heartache amongst split and bereft families on both sides.

Reflecting on songs of the era, a protest song came to mind; West of the Wall (where hearts are free; by Toni Fisher) reached No 1 in 1962. Much later (1983) came 99 Luftballons.

Young Berliners
Young people at the Soviet memorial, Treptower

These days there is little evidence of the schism, though wartime history is well recorded and honestly displayed. Berlin is a vibrant capital again, aspiring to none of the high culture and show of Paris or Vienna but nevertheless a destination for business, investors, politicians and the arts.

Its favoured status as a centre for the theatre, music and the arts from the early 1900s (the influential Bauhaus design and art school moved there when persecuted in Weimar and Dessau) is reinstated in full swing after the fifty-five repressive years of Nazi and Soviet eras.

It’s a city where most people in the streets seem to be young and free, there are small street cafés and creative activities in every sector. Earlier blogs referred to finding quotes from the psalms in unusual places.Wall marker

The wall meandered in and out around the streets and canals.

On many streets and pavements its former location is now marked by a double row of cobblestones that appears from nowhere, sometimes close to apartments or open squares like the famous Potsdamerplatz, only to disappear again across avenue or canal.

Wall Epk

There are a few sections of the wall still extant, some of them having been reinstated years after being pulled down.

The section shown at left is the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the wall along the Spree River adorned with the wall art and graffiti that are evident everywhere in this easy-going city.

Templehof airfield, the hub of the Berlin airlift in 1948, is now a huge, well-used people’s park. Potsdamerplatz is completely rebuilt with new U-Bahn station, and construction continues in like manner along the Unter den Linden which runs in grand style to the Brandenburg gate.

Meanwhile, walls are still being built in Palestine.




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