Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Songbook for the People of God

The campground was quiet, except for the background song of the constantly flowing stream and distant laughter. By the time we finished our Fathers Day dinner of burgers, pasta salad, corn on the cob, and black bottom cake, our minds and hearts began to shift into a place of rest. Firelight started to flicker between trees, and smoke started to circle up to the early stars that had started to shine through. The four of us walked down the road and up a path to a clearing in the woods where backless benches faced a low stage, covered in spots by moss and spider art. Seven people were sprinkled around the front benches, and two smiling young students stood at the front. "Are you here for the worship service?" they hopefully asked. Our affirmative answer brought a collective smile from the small group in the night forest. Like the strangers, we had come to worship our Heavenly Father.

Where can you go in God's Word so people who have just met, have come from far awy, and don't know how the others worship can all gather together in unified worship of the true God? I waited to see where we would turn in the Book, if we would turn.

The young leader led the hodge podge group to what my ESV study Bible says is "the songbook of the worshiping people of God."        We turned to the Book of Psalms. Though written by a variety of writers including men like Moses and David, the songs are poems put to music and modified so congregations could sing them. We know the early Christians sang them from records like Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.(Col. 3:16)
Sometimes our feelings are so deep, so raw, so private - that we don't know how to shape words to express them. Sometimes emotions that threaten to burst our human hearts are too great for our human minds and mouths to form.  The Psalms give shape to the feelings born out of life's circumstances.

Grief. Desperation. Joy. Wonder. Fear. Shame. Hurt. Doubt. Gratitude.  Love. Sorrow. Humility. Celebration. - All that fills the heart of mankind.

I've been to the Psalms this week.  I've been there with others, and I've been there for myself.  You?  The ESV notes say these songs are where "exemplary faith meets concrete situations."  I want faith like that, and these poems once, and sometimes still, put to music help direct my heart in the path to grow that kind of exemplary faith.

In the next weeks I want to look at some of the Psalms that have moved me and others most. It's not easy to choose out of the 150. If I leave out one that has been your song, I hope you'll "sing it out" here again with me. For today, let me leave you with the words of the Psalm read aloud and considered by the small band of believers who shared Jesus in the dim light of a hilltop forest, while the symphony of the bugs and the river and the wind accompanied us in honor of our Maker.

PSALM 145  ~   I will extol you, my God and King,and bless your name forever and ever.Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and merciful,slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all,and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Read the rest here ...
Looking forward to singing with you in these coming weeks ...

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