Category Archives: Uncategorized

Digital Worship May 22, 2022

Both the contemporary online service and the sermon from this service are embedded at the bottom of the post.

Sixth Sunday in Easter, May 22, 2022

*L: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Let us confess our sin to God who is faithful and just and who has promised to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Silence for reflection and self-examination

Most merciful God, have mercy on us. We confess to you that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not trusted you with our whole heart; we have not loved one another in deed and in truth. In your compassion forgive our sin and uphold us by your Spirit that we may live and serve you in newness of life through Jesus Christ our light and our truth. Amen.

With joy, I proclaim to you that Almighty God, rich in mercy, abundant in love, forgives you all your sin and grants you newness of life in Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!

Greeting:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Prayer of the Day

Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 First Reading: Acts 16: 9-15

9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

 Psalm: Psalm 67

1May God be gracious to us and bless us
 and make his face to shine upon us,
 2that your way may be known upon earth,
 your saving power among all nations.
 3Let the peoples praise you, O God;
 let all the peoples praise you.
 4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
 for you judge the peoples with equity
 and guide the nations upon earth.
 5Let the peoples praise you, O God;
 let all the peoples praise you.
 6The earth has yielded its increase;
 God, our God, has blessed us.
 7May God continue to bless us;
 let all the ends of the earth revere him.

 Second Reading: Revelation 21: 10, 22-22:5

 10And in the spirit [one of the angels] carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.
22I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
22:1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.                              

Gospel: John 14:23-29

23Jesus answered [Judas (not Iscariot),] “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”

Sermon: Pastor Neil White

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Assisting Minister

Let us pray:

Loving God, we lift up this world that you love. Renew your creation and give wisdom to all your people who share in your responsibility to care for the world. Give wisdom to the leaders of nations, states, and cities to care for your people and the world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The countries of the world experience disunity and conflict; we set our minds on fear and greed rather than on your rule of justice and steadfast love. Build up all countries on your cornerstone of peace. Protect and bless all who sacrifice to guard our freedoms, including: Ben, Brycen, Christian, Clayton, Daniel, Dillan, Haden, Lindsey, Luke, Michael, Spencer, Sydney, Tyler B. and Tyler G. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We still weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Cradle the fearful, the suffering, and the dying, assuring them of your loving presence. We lift up before you: Aaron, Avery, Aubrey, Austin, Betsy, Billie, Bob D., Bob S., Brandi, Brenda, Christa, Cohen, Dan, Darla, Dave, Deanne, Dorothy,  Eliza, Francis, Jamie, Jan, Jerry K., Jerry N., Kathie, Kelly, Ken, Laurie, Linda, Makayla, Matt, Maureen, Michele, Mick, Mike, Patrick, Pete, Sandy, Scott, Shae, Susan, Tom and Vim and the friends and family of Caleb Edwards and Tanya Erdmann

and those we pray for in our hearts (pause)  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for the ministries of the ELCA and the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, we also lift up in prayer today: Immanuel Lutheran Church,               Posey, First Lutheran Church, Longview and NT-NL Renewing Congregations Table.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Leader: In trust and hope, we commend to you, O Lord, all for whom we pray. Amen.

Sharing of the Peace

Highlights

Offering Offering may be given in the offering plate or electronically through the Tithe.ly app. If you want to honor your electronic gift during the offering there are cards on the usher’s table for that purpose.

Words of Institution

Lord’s Prayer

 Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

A: Let us pray. Lord Jesus, in this sacrament you strengthen us with the saving power of your death and resurrection. May these gifts of your body and blood create in us the fruits of your redemption and grace in our lives, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessing

DiscipleLife

L:    As God has claimed us as his own in Christ,

       we seek to follow Christ with these marks of DiscipleLife:

§Praying Daily

§Worshiping Weekly

§Studying the Bible

§Serving Others

§Building Spiritual Friendships

§Giving to God and our Neighbors in Need

§Engaging God’s Mission

Dismissal: “Go in peace, serve the Lord. Thanks be to God” Alleluia

Digital Worship May 15 2022

Both the contemporary online service and the sermon from this service are embedded at the bottom of the post.

Fifth Sunday in Easter, May 15, 2022

*L: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Let us confess our sin to God who is faithful and just and who has promised to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Silence for reflection and self-examination

Most merciful God, have mercy on us. We confess to you that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not trusted you with our whole heart; we have not loved one another in deed and in truth. In your compassion forgive our sin and uphold us by your Spirit that we may live and serve you in newness of life through Jesus Christ our light and our truth. Amen.

With joy, I proclaim to you that Almighty God, rich in mercy, abundant in love, forgives you all your sin and grants you newness of life in Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!

Prayer of the Day

Let us pray. O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing. Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that, made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 First Reading: Acts 11: 1-18

1Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

 Psalm: Psalm 148

1Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens;
  praise him in the heights!
 2Praise him, all his angels;                                                                                            praise him, all his host!
 3Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
 4Praise him, you highest heavens,                                                                      and you waters above the heavens!
 5Let them praise the name of the LORD,
 for he commanded and they were created.
 6He established them forever and ever;
 he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
 7Praise the LORD from the earth,
 you sea monsters and all deeps,
 8fire and hail, snow and frost,
 stormy wind fulfilling his command!
 9Mountains and all hills,
 fruit trees and all cedars!
 10Wild animals and all cattle,
 creeping things and flying birds!
 11Kings of the earth and all peoples,
 princes and all rulers of the earth!
 12Young men and women alike,
 old and young together!
 13Let them praise the name of the LORD,
 for his name alone is exalted;
 his glory is above earth and heaven.
 14He has raised up a horn for his people,
 praise for all his faithful,
 for the people of Israel who are close to him.
 Praise the LORD!

 Second Reading: Revelation 21: 1-16  

 1I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
 “See, the home of God is among mortals.
 He will dwell with them;
 they will be his peoples,
 and God himself will be with them;
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
 Death will be no more;
 mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
 for the first things have passed away.”
5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

                                   

Gospel: John 13: 31-35

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sermon: Pastor Neil White

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Assisting Minister

Let us pray:

Loving God, we lift up this world that you love. Renew your creation and give wisdom to all your people who share in your responsibility to care for the world. Give wisdom to the leaders of nations, states, and cities to care for your people and the world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The countries of the world experience disunity and conflict; we set our minds on fear and greed rather than on your rule of justice and steadfast love. Build up all countries on your cornerstone of peace. Protect and bless all who sacrifice to guard our freedoms, including: Ben, Brycen, Christian, Clayton, Daniel, Dillan, Haden, Lindsey, Luke, Michael, Spencer, Sydney, Tyler B. and Tyler G. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We still weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Cradle the fearful, the suffering, and the dying, assuring them of your loving presence. We lift up before you: Aaron, Avery, Aubrey, Austin, Betsy, Billie, Bob D., Bob S., Brandi, Brenda, Christa, Cohen, Dan, Darla, Dave, Deanne, Dorothy,  Eliza, Francis, Jamie, Jan, Jerry K., Jerry N., Kathie, Kelly, Ken, Laurie, Linda, Makayla, Matt, Maureen, Michele, Mick, Mike, Patrick, Pete, Sandy, Scott, Shae, Susan, Tom and Vim

and those we pray for in our hearts (pause)  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for the ministries of the ELCA and the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, we also lift up in prayer today: St. John Lutheran Church,               Bartlett, Christ Lutheran Church, Dallas and Panhandle Conference.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Leader: In trust and hope, we commend to you, O Lord, all for whom we pray. Amen.

Sharing of the Peace

Highlights

Offering Offering may be given in the offering plate or electronically through the Tithe.ly app. If you want to honor your electronic gift during the offering there are cards on the usher’s table for that purpose.

Words of Institution

Lord’s Prayer

 Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

A: Let us pray. Lord Jesus, in this sacrament you strengthen us with the saving power of your death and resurrection. May these gifts of your body and blood create in us the fruits of your redemption and grace in our lives, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessing

DiscipleLife

L:    As God has claimed us as his own in Christ,

       we seek to follow Christ with these marks of DiscipleLife:

§Praying Daily

§Worshiping Weekly

§Studying the Bible

§Serving Others

§Building Spiritual Friendships

§Giving to God and our Neighbors in Need

§Engaging God’s Mission

Dismissal: “Go in peace, serve the Lord. Thanks be to God” Alleluia

Judges 5 The Song of Deborah and Barak

Luca Giordano, The Defeat of Sisera (1692)

Judges 5

1 Then Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying:
2 “When locks are long in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly — bless  the LORD!
3 “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the LORD I will sing, I will make melody to the LORD, the God of Israel.
4 “LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens poured, the clouds indeed poured water.
5 The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel.
6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, caravans ceased and travelers kept to the byways.
7 The peasantry prospered in Israel, they grew fat on plunder, because you arose, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
8 When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel?
9 My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the LORD.
10 “Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets  and you who walk by the way.
11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the triumphs of the LORD, the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel. “Then down to the gates marched the people of the LORD.
12 “Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, utter a song! Arise, Barak, lead away your captives, O son of Abinoam.
13 Then down marched the remnant of the noble; the people of the LORD marched down for him against the mighty.
14 From Ephraim they set out into the valley, following you, Benjamin, with your kin; from Machir marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the marshal’s staff;
15 the chiefs of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed out at his heels. Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
16 Why did you tarry among the sheepfolds, to hear the piping for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he abide with the ships? Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, settling down by his landings.
18 Zebulun is a people that scorned death; Naphtali too, on the heights of the field.
19 “The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver.
20 The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The torrent Kishon swept them away, the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon. March on, my soul, with might!
22 “Then loud beat the horses’ hoofs with the galloping, galloping of his steeds.
23 “Curse Meroz, says the angel of the LORD, curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they did not come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.
24 “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed.
25 He asked water and she gave him milk, she brought him curds in a lordly bowl.
26 She put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet; she struck Sisera a blow, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead.
28 “Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera gazed  through the lattice: ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?’
29 Her wisest ladies make answer, indeed, she answers the question herself:
30 ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil? — A girl or two for every man; spoil of dyed stuffs for Sisera, spoil of dyed stuffs embroidered, two pieces of dyed work embroidered for my neck as spoil?’
31 “So perish all your enemies, O LORD! But may your friends be like the sun as it rises in its might.” And the land had rest forty years.

The song of Deborah and Barak is generally considered one of the oldest pieces of the Hebrew Scriptures, along with the song of Moses, due to its archaic Hebrew vocabulary and syntax, and like the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 it shares a distinctive form in the way the Hebrew text is presented. The song is assumed to be older than the narrative version of the story which formed the preceding chapter, and it gives several unique insights into the narrative. Yet, the song assumes a knowledge of the background narrative that it refers to and it was probably a way in which the narrative of Deborah, Barak, and Jael was not forgotten in the passage of time. It also highlights the contrast between the weakness of Israel and the powerful nature of the God of Israel.

The opening line, “When locks were long in Israel” is obscure and difficult to translate with any confidence, but the overall direction of the verse is clear referring to a time when the people were willing to offer themselves to the guidance of the God of Israel. The ‘locks being long’ may refer to a time when holy warriors, like the Nazirites (Numbers 6, Judges 13), didn’t cut their hair and dedicated themselves to God’s service. The NIV renders this this text as ‘when the princes of Israel take the lead’ but most other translations go in the same direction as the NRSV and this seems to be the most likely approach even if its full meaning has been lost to us now. Yet, the primary focus is not the people of Israel, it is the God of Israel whose power thy sing about. It is striking that the initial imagery of the God of Israel is very similar to the imagery that the Canaanites used for their deities, but most people in the ancient world would have assumed that their gods worked through signs like earthquakes and storms. Yet, the initial appearance of the God of Israel being seen in the earth quaking, the storm dumping water, and the mountains quaking prepare us for the action of the LORD in verses 20-21.

Beginning in verse six we have a poetic illustration of the plight of Israel before the coming of Deborah and Barak to rally them and call them back to following the LORD. The mention of Shamgar (Judges 3:31) and Jael (4:17-22) points back to a time when the people of Israel are powerless in the face of a resurgent Canaanite threat. Shamgar may have been able to drive off a Philistine force, but the overall condition was desperate. Normal life was no longer possible. A leaderless Israel could not trade and travel could not be done safely on the main roads. The people of Israel are unable to defend themselves and even once Deborah arrives to be a ‘mother of Israel’ there are no weapons among the people: no spear or shield to defend themselves with. The poem attributes this lack of strength to the Israelites adopting new gods to worship, and probably the practice of adopting the practices and ways of the people already in the land. Before Deborah, Israel has forgotten who it is and how to protect themselves in a dangerous world where their oppressors have an organized and well-equipped fighting force.

Deborah the ‘mother of Israel’ probably begins the process of helping the tribes in her region begin to reclaim their identity and distinctive way of life. As mentioned in the previous chapter, as a woman she may have had more freedom to act without the Canaanites viewing her as a threat. Whatever shape her work among Israel took, her presence sets the foundation for the rallying of the tribes that do participate in the battle of Wadi Kishon under Barak. Yet, the poem also gives us an indication that Israeli is not unified: Reuben, Dan, Asher, and the half tribe of Manasseh and Gad (designated by the region they live in, Gilead) all fail to answer the rallying cry of Deborah and Barak even though they seem to be aware of it. Ephraim, Benjamin, Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali all in the poem offer forces. The narrative in chapter four indicates Zebulun and Naphtali being the primary contributors which is interesting if Deborah is from Issachar. The only forces that Deborah and Barak are able to rally consists of rag tag, poorly equipped force from roughly half of the summoned tribes. Israel on its own is poorly equipped to deal with the Canaanite forces that have made trade and normal life an impossibility for the previous eighteen years.

The weakness of the Israelites in the face of the kings of Canaan has been poetically illustrated. The title ‘kings of the Canaanites’ may harken back to the time of Joshua since the narrative version only points to King Jabin, but in contrast to an ununified Israel a consolidated Canaanite force approaches this rag tag resistance with the expectation of the annihilation and plundering of their enemy. Instead the LORD deploys the stars against Canaan. In the ancient world the stars were often viewed as deities or forces that controlled the weather and the unfolding of event, but now they are a part of the heavenly army of the LORD the God of Israel who are deployed against the chariots of Canaan bringing a torrential downpour which transforms the iron chariots from an insurmountable advantage into a liability for the Canaanites. The retreat of the horses of the Canaanites is captured by the Hebrew for ‘galloping, galloping’ daharot, daharot. Yet, instead of continuing the narration of the surprising scattering of the Canaanites the poem shifts to a curse of Meroz, presumably an Israelite clan or village that did not help pursue and cut off the Canaanite retreat and may have even aided the scattered forces.

Yet in contrast to the cursing of Meroz is the blessing of Jael. Where a group of Israelites failed to provide support, a non-Israelite woman brings down the commander of the Canaanites. The poem may give us a possible hint to Jael’s actions against Sisera when it refers to him ‘laying dead at her feet.’ The Hebrew here, ben rahleyha, also means ‘between her legs’ and is used elsewhere with sexual overtones (ex. Ezekiel 16:25) (NIB II:788) and it is possible that after offering shelter Sisera she is raped by the general and responds by killing him in his sleep. This is conjecture based on the slightest of hints in the poem and is not something that can be stated with any certainty, but it would give a motive for Jael to break the expectations of hospitality and the peace her husband Hobab had established with the Canaanites.

The final stanza of the poem imagines the mother of Sisera waiting for the return of her son. In imagining the cause of his delay this woman imagines that her son is delayed by his actions against other women. The Hebrew here is more explicit than the English translations, women are reduced to wombs so instead of a woman or two for each man it is merely women as sexual objects. That this justification is placed in the mouth of a woman indicates a culture that sees the objectification of women as sexual objects to be conquered by men as normal. This is not the world the Israelites were supposed to embody but it may have been the violent world they often inhabited. The ancient world was not a safe place for women, but here in this poem we have the strong contrast between the unnamed mother of the Canaanite general and Deborah the mother of Israel who calls the people to a different identity and Jael, the wife of Hobab the Kenite, who brings an end to the violent Sisera in her tent.

The poem ends by declaring “So perish all your enemies, O LORD! But may your friends be like the sun as it rises in might.” The poem is clear that the reason for the victory that Israel achieves through Deborah, Barak, and Jael in the righteous power of the LORD the God of Israel. The Canaanites with their chariots have become enemies of their God through their oppression and for the moment these Israelites rallied around Deborah and Barak are friends of God rising in might. Yet, Israel too can find itself as an enemy of God when it forgets God’s ways and adopts the ways of the violent and oppressive ways of the Canaanites. The judges that come after Deborah and Barak will be less successful in bringing the people back to following the God of Israel and the people will continue to reflect the practices of the nations which they were supposed to displace instead of the covenant vision that God handed on to Moses and Joshua. Israel instead of rising in might stands in danger of being eclipsed by its own unfaithfulness

Psalm 67 A Blessing For The Earth

Psalm 67

<To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.>

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
 2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
       3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
                4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the       nations upon earth. Selah
       5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
 6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

The Jewish[1] sense of being chosen by God involves a paradox between the universalism of God’s bounty over all the earth and the particularism of their specific role and responsibility within God’s greater action on behalf of the world and the nations. They are to be a ‘treasured possession, a priestly kingdom, and a holy nation,’ (Exodus 19: 5-6) but like their ancestor Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12: 3) Central to the theology of the psalms, and the entire scriptures, is the audacious claim that the particular God they worship is the God of all creation. This small nation, which are descendants of slaves in Egypt, and never emerges as major player on the world stage somehow trusts that the covenantal life they live will be a witness for all the nations to see and it will testify to the universal reign of the God they worship.

The psalm is structured as a chiasm[2] with verse four as the center. This central point focuses on the universal reign and worship of their God. This universal reign is to be demonstrated by the praise of all the peoples. This idea is echoed in several other places in scripture either in relation to the God of Israel (Exodus 9:16, Psalm 22: 27-28, Isaiah 2: 2-4; 19: 23-34; 49: 5-7) or Jesus. (Matthew 28:18, Philippians 2: 10-11) The petition at the beginning of the psalm that God may bless us (echoing the priestly blessing of Numbers 6: 24-26 but now placing it in the voice of the people rather than the priest) is paired with the hope that through this blessing God’s way make be known upon the earth and God’s saving power among the nations. The Psalm mirrors this request by announcing that God has blessed and the earth yields its harvest (increase) and in God’s continued action of blessing the people of Israel the ends of the earth will revere God.

This idea of election or calling of the people of God for the sake of the rest of the earth makes a more gracious view of those who believe and act differently available for the chosen people. God’s blessing on the earth and the nations does not depend upon the conversion or subjugation of those nations. Even if these Gentiles or unbelievers do not ‘know’ that it is God at work, the covenant people know and celebrate this. This is a part of the mystery of God’s strange and gracious way upon the earth. God can act through a foreigner like Cyrus in Isaiah 45: 1-5 to bring about a blessing for the covenant people. As Jesus can state in Matthew’s gospel, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5: 44-45) These followers of God are to live in gratitude for the blessings that God sends both to them and the unrighteous, to those who are a part of the covenant people and the ones beyond the boundaries of their faith or nation. They continue to pray for God’s blessings not only on themselves but also for the whole world. God’s special consideration of the covenant people somehow, in the mystery of God’s steadfast love, is a part of God’s establishing justice for all the people and a way in which God provides guidance for all the earth.

 

[1] This also applies to the Christian sense of being chosen or calling.

[2] A Chiasm is a poetic and literary structure where ideas and often vocabulary is mirrored around a central point. I have indented the psalm to show this structure where vs. 1-2 are mirrored by 6-7, vs. 3 and 5 are identical copies and verse four stands as the focal point.

Psalm 66 Formed by Steadfast Love

Grigory Mekheev, Exodus (2000) artist shared work under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Psalm 66

<To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.>

1 Make a joyful[1] noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah
5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,
7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations — let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah
8 Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;
12 you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,
14 those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.
17 I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

For the Hebrew people the Exodus is the defining narrative that informs their life as the people of God. Without God’s action to bring them out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the promised land they are not a people of their own, merely slaves of the great Egyptian empire. Central to their faith is the trust that God acted in mighty ways to deliver their ancestors in the past and that God continues to act in ways to protect, preserve, purify, and refine so that they might be a treasured possession, a priestly kingdom, and a holy nation. (Exodus 19: 5-6) The people of God participate with the rest of creation in bearing witness to not only the mighty deeds of God but the careful formation of this people into something precious.

The previous psalm ended with the valleys and meadows shouting for joy and singing and now Psalm 66 begins with the imperative for all the earth to shout to God. God’s name and God’s power are lifted up as reasons for that praise and both friend and foe recognize the power of God. The initial stanza of this psalm joins together the voices of humanity with the voices of the creation in an exultant praise of God’s glory and strength while the second stanza invites the hearer to learn the specific actions that the psalmist views as praiseworthy. The invitation to come and see God’s awesome deeds takes the listener to the exodus narrative where God turned the Red Sea into dry land for Israel to cross and, before their entry into the promised land, God does the same with the Jordan river. These actions to bring the people out of Egypt and into the promised land demonstrate for the speaker God’s rule over the nations and God’s ability to execute justice throughout the world. The rebellious ones find themselves overwhelmed by God’s judgment like Korah and the leaders he assembled to confront Moses. (Numbers 16)

The work of God is not completed with the rescue of the people but it continues with the formation of this people to become the holy nation they are set aside to be. The other nations are invited to observe the way that the God of Israel is at work testing and refining the people, training them as one would train an athlete or soldier by giving them additional burdens to bear, and passing them through fire and water that they might be who they were created to be. As Beth Tanner can observe, “The world is eavesdropping on Israel’s formation as God’s people.” (Nancy deClaisse-Walford 2014, 535) The speaker does not resent this formation but rather praises God because of it. God has shaped and formed them to be something special and they respond with an abundant thanksgiving offering of fatlings, rams, bulls, and goats are offered. Presumably this type of offering would take place within a great communal feast celebrating God’s provision and telling again the story of God’s mighty deeds through the Exodus.

The psalm concludes with a move from a highlighting of what God has done for the people to centering on God’s answering of the prayer of the speaker. God has formed the speaker to be pure of heart and God also hears the prayers of this treasured one. God’s promised steadfast love has been there when the psalmist needed it and God has demonstrated that God is trustworthy in God’s relation to the individual as well as the people. Living in the covenant with this God has brought the psalmist to the point where they shout out joyfully with all creation for the mighty work of their God.

This is a psalm that speaks to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would many years later call ‘costly grace.’ The grace (or steadfast love) in this psalm chooses the people without any worthiness of their own, but it also tests and tries the recipient so that they may become something precious. This steadfast love is at work in the work of creation, redemption, and sanctification-forming from slaves and sinners a holy people, a treasured possession, and a priestly kingdom. It is a faith which allows the faithful one to understand the struggles they pass through as a part of their formation to be who they were intended by God to be. It is a faith that can point to God’s mighty deeds in the past but also acknowledges the way that God has given heed to the words of the faithful one’s prayer. Perhaps one of the gifts in this psalm is the way that the steadfast love of God is seen at the conclusion, after the mighty deeds and the passing through fire and water. As Bonhoeffer stated in Discipleship, “Grace as presupposition is grace at its cheapest; grace as a conclusion is costly grace.” (DBWE 4:51) Perhaps it is only looking back through the struggles that one can appreciate the manner in which both the struggles and the mighty works together have been a part of God’s patient formation of the people and the individual through the ever-present steadfast love of God.

[1] This is the Hebrew verb rua (shout) which appears at the end of the last verst of Psalm 65

Getting to know Creative Words

To introduce Creative Words I did several readings of selections from throughout the work. Click on any of the titles and it will take you to the reading with the text of the poem:

Introducing Creative Words

Reading of the title poem Creative Words

Reading of Anxiety

Reading of Obfuscation

Reading of Poet, End the War

If you would like to read a review of Creative Words by an independent reviewer for Clarion book reviews you can access that here.

Psalm 62 Truly Faith Surrounds My Troubles

Wartburg Castle, Eisenach, Germany. Photo by Robert Scarth shared under creative commons 2.0

Psalm 62 Truly Faith Surrounds My Troubles

<To the leader: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.>

1 For God alone my soul[1] waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
3 How long will you assail a person, will you batter[2] your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah
5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,
12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.

In poetry structure can frequently be used to help those familiar with the medium understand the words at a deeper level. In this psalm there are a number of structural elements that are often missed in the English translations that help provide emphasis in the psalm of trust amidst trouble. The placement of this psalm between Psalm 61 and Psalm 63 (also psalms which declare the psalmist’s trust in God above all other things) also emphasizes this common theme. The “trilogy of trust” within the psalms, as J. Clinton McCann labels Psalm 61-63, (NIB IV:922) stand near the end of the petitions for help in this portion of the book of psalms. Even though the psalmist’s world is full of people who murder reputations with their duplicitous ways, the way of faith knows that God’s steadfast love will outlast the scheming of mortals.

Invisible to most English translations of this psalm is the repetition of the Hebrew ‘ak which begins verses 1,2,4,5,6 and 9. This word, translated ‘alone’ and ‘only’ in the NRSV, is used four times in relation to God and twice in relation to the working of humans. There is a strong emphasis on God ‘alone’ providing strength which thwarts the ‘only’ plans of those who are but a breath. In addition to this structural repetition is the nearly identical wording of verses 1-2 and 5-6. The complaints about the enemies who are assailing the psalmist and attempting to bring them down from prominence are structurally surrounded by God alone, who they wait for in silence. The psalmist may appear like a leaning wall or a tottering fence, but they are surrounded by their rock, salvation, and fortress. The faithful one can remain in silence while the wicked ones utter falsehoods for they know that this struggle takes place within the sheltering space of their God who will not allow them to be shaken. Even trouble is surrounded by faith and the deliverance from the ephemeral evils produced by the wicked rests in the hands of God who rescues not only life but also honor and reputation.

In verse eight the psalm transforms from personal trust to testimony. Now the psalmist takes on the role of the instructor to the people handing on the trust they have learned. What humans can do alone without God (in verse 9 this is the final time the Hebrew ‘ak occurs) is to be a breath or a puff of air. God alone can be salvation, rock, fortress, deliverance, and honor. Placing trust in human scheming, extortion, robbery, and even riches is foolishness. It is in God, not humans and their schemes, where power rests. It is God’s hesed (steadfast love) that is the guarantee of the future for the faithful. The actions of the faithful and the foolish are seen by God and the psalmist trusts that ultimately God’s steadfast love and power will lift up the righteous and bring down those who are working in falsehood to destroy the honor and perhaps even the life of the faithful ones.

 

[1] Although the Hebrew nephesh is often translated ‘soul,’ the Hebrew understanding of ‘soul’ is closer to ‘life’ than the Greek conception of soul most English speakers assume. The Hebrew idea is inseparable from the life of the individual.

[2] A more literal translation of the Hebrew rasah here would be ‘kill’ or ‘murder’ (NIB IV:923)

Three Metaphors at the Closing of a Book: Part 3 The Drink

As the sweetness and smoke of the story’s savor
Fades from your tongue and your thirst returns
Drink deeply my friend, for there is sure to be a story here
That will quench your thirst for a time, cool and sharp.
Perhaps you want something that burns as it goes down,
Or something to make you forget the troubles of your world
I’ve got just the thing for you, take a taste of this
Drink deeply my friend, it has been aging and waiting for you.
It needs to be shared, and tasted. Enjoy my friend.
And maybe one day the story we share will be the one
You are brewing in the dark corners of your imagination.