Monday, September 3, 2007

The Psalms

I love reading and praying the Psalms. Whenever my heart is troubled, whenever I want to feel close to God, whenever the world seems too much and too crazy, I pick up my 1928 Book of Common Prayer which includes all the Psalms divided into thirty morning and evening readings so that the entire Book of Psalms can be read each month. And I love the translation which predates even the good ol' King James; the Psalms I pray are from the Great Bible of 1540.

Tonight I picked up my prayer book and turned to the Psalms for the Second Day (morning and evening). Here are some snippets of what I read, snippets that encouraged me and led me into the Presence of the Most High God, who loves me for who I am but loves me too much to let me stay that way (a paraphrase of Pastor Stephen's favorite line):

I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will speak of all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee; yea, my songs will I make of thy Name, O thou Most Highest. (Psalm 9:1-2)

But the Lord shall endure for ever. The Lord also will be a defence for the oppressed, even a refuge in due time of trouble. And they that know thy Name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast never failed them that seek thee. (Psalm 9: 7, 9-10)

But my trust is in thy mercy, and my heart is joyful in thy salvation. I will sing of the Lord, because he hath dealt so lovingly with me; yea, I will praise the Name of the Lord Most Highest. (Psalm 13: 5-6)

I love the liturgical reading of the Psalms that are part of the Anglican Morning and Evening Prayer services. The priest reads one verse, and the congregation the next verse, and on we read until we reach the end of the appointed Psalms. Responsive readings always thrill me -- we've done such readings at Lake Murray as well, and I love reading the Scriptures this way because we're all involved together, our voices intermingling as we speak the Word of God together as the Family of God. It's even more powerful when one considers that millions of Anglicans are reading the same Psalms together in churches all over the world -- the same Psalms are being spoken aloud in Alpine and in Nairobi, in London and in Seoul, in Sydney and in Kampala, in Boston and in Calcutta. The same Psalms that I just read in my prayer book, that I just prayed on this second day of the month, are being read and prayed TODAY throughout the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

That's an idea that feels so foreign to me as I've spent over fourteen years in a church whose history only reaches back fifty years with little national unity, much less a worldwide communion. The worldwide unity of the Anglican and Catholic Churches simply boggles my wee brain -- to have millions of Christians reading the same Scriptures today in their churches and hearing sermons based on those common Scriptures -- that's a powerful thing. A truly awesome thing.

Right now I'm reading Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book which discusses How To Read The Bible. I'm now starting the second section which deals with Lectio Divina, a way of slowly, deliberately, meditatively, prayerfully reading and "digesting" Scripture, an art that has been lost a little, I think, in the busy-ness of modern culture. I'm very glad to find other evangelicals picking up on the idea of Lectio and expanding it beyond a liturgical understanding; all Christians, no matter the denomination, would do well to practice Lectio Divina.

And the Psalms are definitely the best place for the practice of Lectio. As Pastor Peterson says, "Eat this book." "Taste and see that the Lord is good." And my advice: go to the Psalms and eat heartily, my friends. There's comfort and wisdom and joy and worship and love and the voice of the Most High God -- and it's there to be enjoyed, to be taken, to be consumed into our minds, hearts, and souls -- to the very depths of our spiritual beings.

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