Tag Archives: Psalms

Patterns of life

“Praying the Office just every once in a while isn’t enough. It has to become a discipline. That doesn’t mean that if you miss it once you’re lost or anything, but its power lies in the force of habits. Habits of mind, habits of devotion, habits of thought. That’s what transforms us—patterns of life.”

From a longer address on the Daily Office and the Anglo-Catholic social conscience at Derek Olsen’s blog.

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Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful

My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. (Hosea 11:8-9)

In the Gospel appointed for today, we hear Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount telling us to love our enemies.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” he asks. “Even sinners do the same.”

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

Popular sentiment on Facebook and elsewhere these days runs more like this — if someone doesn’t like you, don’t keep them in your life. If someone disagrees with you, unfriend them or block their posts. Love those who love you.

But we are called to “a still more excellent way,” as Paul would describe it (1 Cor. 13). We are called to see clearly what people are up to, and to love them still. We are called to engage, not to disengage, and to be merciful to others with the warm and tender compassion of God.

Church Geek Note:

Today on the church calendar we commemorate William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale, translators of the Bible (1536, 1569). Just a year after Tyndale was executed for heresy (for daring to translate the New Testament into English), Coverdale completed the work and the Matthew Bible was published in 1537 in England. The Psalter from Coverdale’s Great Bible of 1539 was used in the English Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1662, and (with many revisions over the years) in American Prayer Books through 1928.

Our current Psalter is a translation directly from the Hebrew that takes advantage of 400 years of biblical scholarship. However, Marion Hatchett writes in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book that “the rhythmic expression which characterized Coverdale’s work has been preserved. So that the psalms may be congruent with the services in traditional language, the vocabulary has been largely restricted to that available to Coverdale” (551).

Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servants William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue, and endowed them with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures, and hear them calling us to repentance and life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

What to do with these emotions?

Let his days be few,
and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless,
and his wife become a widow. (Psalm 109:7-8)

The Daily Office lectionary this morning suggests omitting several verses of Psalm 109, one of the psalms known as an “imprecatory” psalm because it asks God to curse one’s enemies.

This particular psalm gained some notoriety earlier this year in an email circulated by Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal asking people to pray for President Obama and citing these verses. What to do with these emotions?

I like this introduction to the Psalms in A New Zealand Prayer Book: He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa: “The wide appeal of the psalms rests on their ability to give words to some of our deepest feelings in the face of life’s experiences. Whether for joy, worship and exaltation, or degradation and rejection, or hope, faith, love, anger, or despair, the psalms contain verses that reflect such moods. In them the various writers expressed to God the thoughts of their heart and spirit. The richness of the psalms still speaks to us and in them we too can find words to match many of our moods and express them before God. In turn God can still address us through these psalms.”

Psalm 109 and others like it “give words to some of our deepest feelings” — feelings of anger and bitterness and the hope that our enemies will suffer — but “in turn God can still address us through these psalms.”

As we pour out our rage, we do so in the light of Christ, who “stretched out [his] arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of [his] saving embrace” — not just us, but our enemies, too.

As we choke out our bitterness, the Word of God “opens our lips” so our mouths can instead “show forth [his] praise.”

Though these imprecatory verses of the Psalter do not express the Christian understanding of God’s relationship with people (which is why they are usually omitted from our public worship), they do still express our very human frustrations and fears.

They may, in fact, help us in our private prayers to more honestly bring all of our concerns to God in order that we might be freed from anger and made whole again.