This Sunday, Grace Kernersville begins a new series on the Psalms. In this series we will be looking at the prayers of the Psalter and how these Bible prayers can become the language of the heart. In them we discern an ongoing dialogue between the psalmist and God, between us and the psalmist, between the psalmist and their own circumstances, and even between the psalms themselves. In this ongoing dialogue, we are given the tools to chart a course through our circumstances, feelings, and experience into a walk with God through life. A walk that is entered into by faith.
In the Psalms, we keep company with the righteous whether that is David, Moses, Asaph, Solomon, the sons of Korah or countless unattributed authors. It is good company. and though the circumstances, language, and metaphors are a bit different than our own, we hear in their voices the same fear, confusion, need, gratitude, and thanksgiving.
I am growing in my appreciation of the Psalms — a reality that probably exposes my shallow and slow-wittedness. Since the beginning of Ordinary Time, we have continued to meet via Zoom to pray for the thirty minutes each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening at 7:00pm. I’ve called this time Ordinary Prayer.
The psalms are ordinary prayers. They were composed by kings and prophets and sung by shepherds and fisherman. They were good for singing in the Temple, and they were good for the Galilean countryside. These are the words and word pictures of God’s people who themselves, like us, fought the fight of faith in the midst of extraordinary events and ordinary days.
Along with praying the the Psalms, I’ve undertaken, it seems, a project to paraphrase them. I have a bit of a poetic sensibility, and recognize the value of translating through metaphor and different words in order to get at the meaning. Some of the psalms can be difficult for us to translate so that they mean something to us. Once however, we get to their meaning, we find that they express the life of faith, the desires of the heart, and the needs of those who find themselves in a place where there is nothing left but to pray.
Here’s a stab at Psalm 12, which we will be looking at tonight during Ordinary Prayer. The psalmist speaks of the toxicity of the rumors and lies of the world. I found, as I read it, that it speaks very much of today’s social media climate and so I paraphrased the psalm in an attempt to make use of social media’s toxicity and our ability to trust and see the worth of all the Lord’s words or maybe, his “posts.”
Help! I’ve no friends left.
All the good and godly have disappeared from among Adam’s kids.
Not a good one remains.
On social media, they’re all cool and chill
But their secret heart speaks hate and lies.
May the Lord unplug all your devices
And silence your streaming feeds of lies,
You who say, “With our algorithms and bots,
Who can silence our posts?”
Because they steal from the poor,
Because those who need are targets,
Because they have no words but groans,
I will help them myself, says the Lord.
I will lift their eyes from their screens
And show them the place for which they’ve longed.
The Lord speaks with a single heart,
And his posts are worth it: true and bright.
You couldn’t compose them better if you had a week.
The Lord means what he says;
He’ll defend you from the mob.
The trolls are out there around every corner,
And the filth they post is praised by Adam’s kids.
This Sunday marks the end of what the church calendar calls Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time falls during two seasons in the calendar year. It first comes for several weeks in winter after Christmas and Epiphany and then comes again several months later to mark the season after Pentecost.
Ordinary Time is a season in which it seems nothing is happening. There are a few special days which come, but there are no special seasons or holidays such as Christmas, Epiphany, or Easter. I tell the children that when they see the green banners (aka paraments) in the church, they should remember that “green means grow.” By this time in ordinary time, the green is tiring, and the daily, weekly, monthly work of doing what the Lord and Christ has commanded as we await Jesus’ second coming, seems unending.
Experiencing the fullness of the gospel in the Ordinary may sometimes feel difficult. We like verbs or descriptors that are action words that speak of the special, radical, extreme, and powerful. Words or actions which speak of the every day such as duty, discipline, making your bed seem to wear us down. Ordinary just seems so ordinary, and who wants that?
A couple of those words which are ordinary words but which get pulled down into the mundane and unexciting of the life of waiting are “gratitude” and “thanksgiving.” Depending on when you hear the word it may be that you either ought to be more grateful or should be ashamed that you aren’t. And so we muster up the strength, rally our sluggish wills and write the note, send the text, or say the words, “Thank you.” Those moments seem a far cry from the flying high, powerful experience of the extraordinary.
The question we’re confronted with in Ordinary Time is, “Can I get to gratitude from where I am right now? In the wreckage of life, in the tediousness of details, and the pang of waiting, is there any way into gratitude which is full and humbling and joyful?” Psalm 75 gives us map, and we will be looking at the map this Sunday. I hope you can join us.