- Paul and Silas in prison are shaken by an earthquake, showing both them and their jailer their ways to freedom. (Acts 16)
- In the Psalm, fire, lightning, trembling mountains — and light dawns.
- ‘See I am coming … Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift’ (Rev. 22)
- Jesus as the conduit to understanding and grace (John 17)
In the psalm, firstly, the ruckus seems to be about:
- a call to praise a creator who mysteriously (‘clouds and darkness’) established goodness and justice as foundational elements of the universal blueprint (vs 1, 2)
- celebrating the escape from Egypt, with pillars of fire and such theatrical effects (vs 3-6)
- and more generally an awareness of the power of the elements.
A second section laments the habit during the exodus of turning to graven images for inspiration and guidance. These days, the traps are just as pernicious as we tend to be fascinated by images, youth, beauty, public profile or power. Appreciation of meaningful activity, art and beauty are important; but so is balance.
Then comes a promise to those who follow this admittedly broad instruction (what is ‘true-hearted?):
Light has sprung up for the righteous, and joyful gladness for those who are true-hearted. (v. 11)
Broad instruction allows people in many different situations to consider, discern and apply. But remember the context of the Christmas readings; Psalm 97 sits in the middle of a bracket of three psalms, 96 to 98, that (like the song of Meshach and his mates in Ps. 148) call for the creation to unify in praise of the creator by singing that ‘new song’.
The Crystal Ball for May gave fair warning that the Cantor’s whims might intrude. So it evolves that we shall not toss up between TEP and PFAS as foretold therein, but sing a new song using verses 11 and 12 for the refrain:
Cantor: Let us be glad.
Response: Light has sprung up for the faithful; give thanks to the holy name.
Sheet music here: Ps97