Proclamation of the Scripture Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Here ends this reading of the word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Message Spirit of Witness
Today is our Musical Sunday. It therefore seemed appropriate to turn to the book of Psalms for our scripture reading. The Psalms were written as religious hymns for the Hebrew people. We can still sing them, although we are not sure what their original melodies sounded like. The Old Testament, including the book of Psalms, has been translated into English from Hebrew, so verses that rhymed in Hebrew don’t rhyme in English and the words don’t follow the same meter, or rhythmic structure, than they did in Hebrew. But, sometimes we still sing the Psalms – familiar hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” is based on Psalm 46 and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” is based on Psalm 103. Random snippets from the Book of Psalms are found in many of our contemporary hymns – and when I say contemporary, I mean hymns written in the last 300 years!
The Psalms were written to be sung in worship. Different types of worship services have different themes and tones – we don’t usually sing Christmas Carols at funerals and we don’t sing Easter hymns on Epiphany. The Psalms are usually focused on either worshipping God, praising God, lamenting or complaining to God, thanking God, or asking God for wisdom or instructions.
Psalm 68 is a song of praise to God for victory in battle. It is attributed to King David, who is believed to have written many of the verses in the book of Psalms. David spent many years fighting battles….he fought alongside King Saul against the Philistines – he became a hero but then was threatening to King Saul, who ended up chasing David around the middle east with his army – David eventually overcame Saul and became the king of the Hebrew people, but then he had to defend the people of Israel against the Jebusites, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites, the Amalekites, and the Ammonites. So, he found many wars and battles, and was successful in many of those battles. David attributed his successes to God.
So, on the one hand, we can read this Psalm about how God helped David and the people of Israel successful fight off their enemies.
On the other hand, as people who read these works at least 3000 years after they were penned, or quilled, or shared orally, David’s song of praise has applications to our lives.
The Psalm describes how God supports and sustains God’s people. God is a father to the fatherless. God is a defender of widows and people who are downtrodden. God helps lonely people create “chosen families” – families that arise not out of biological bonds but because of the love shared by the people who chose to be family together. God supports, loves and frees prisoners. God waters the gardens of the world and sustains crops and food sources. God leads the weary people to new homes and accommodations and encourages us in our efforts to help people who are financially poor and spiritually poor.
Psalm 68 concludes by calling all creation and all people to praise our God because God is the being and force who will fight for people on the margins. Our faith compels us to love and help people in need, just as God loves and helps people in need. God loves people who are suffering; we are called to love people who are suffering. God defends and protects vulnerable people; we are called to defend and protect vulnerable people. God cares for and protects orphans and widows; our faith compels us to care for widows, and older people, and orphans. God works for the liberation of prisoners; our faith calls us to visit and love and support prisoners and to work for the freedom of people who are wrongfully imprisoned.
God loves the people of the world – the vulnerable people, the downtrodden people, the sad people – God loves us. And, in response to God’s love we are to love those same people and each other. Let us join together on this music Sunday to: “Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord…” Amen.