Scroll down for Psalm 31

Psalm 118:1-2; 19-29                                                     

 

LITURGY FOR ENTERING - This liturgical psalm of praise combines both corporate and individual praise into a memorable, inspiring entrance poem celebrated by both Christian and Jewish communities. The individual psalm of praise in found in vv. 5-14, 17-18 that leads up to our lesson. The liturgical action begins with v. 19-27, but especially in vv. 20-24.

JUBILATION - The words that form this Sunday’s lesson gives us a hint of the vivid and liveliness of ancient Israel’s worship-full of jubilation, happy shouting and even dancing. Entry into the Temple (vv. 19-20) was a high and festal occasion, accompanied with choirs singing in an apparent antiphonal style. [1] The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner-stone (v. 22) is a phrase of which the original meaning is all but lost to us, yet through the lens of the New Testament, the saying becomes for Christians the aha of the gospel-surprise! the rejected one has become the center of God’s saving activity.

NIB ON PSALM 118 - Psalm 118 can be seen as a focal point for discerning the continuity between the Old and the New Testament witnesses that God is "for us" (vv. 6-7; Romans 8:31) and that God’s "steadfast love endures forever" (vv. 1-4, 29; see Romans 8:38-39) . . . Not surprisingly, the special appeal that Psalm 118 had for the Gospel writers has continued throughout the centuries of Christian interpretation . . . Given the rich historical allusions and open-endedness of the psalm, as well as the history and currency of its use in Judaism and Christianity, one might make the same conclusion of Psalm 118 as a whole-all the saints have sung it and will sing it to the end. [2]

 

Why do you suppose that Luther called this his favorite psalm?

Do you feel part of a spiritual community that has gone through "distress" (vv. 5-14)?

Who is the "us" in your "Lord, save us" (v. 25)? Where do you need help right now?

 

This psalm will typically combine with choirs, antiphonal calls and response, processions, and great hymns like, All Glory, Laud, and Honor. On this day, Psalm 118 is majestic, festive even as it foreshadows the gospel.

One homiletic idea might be to simply walk through the psalm as it connects with the gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. EX: Shouts of joy and victory (v. 15) could be heard in relationship to similar shouts among the throng that welcomed Jesus into their city. You could conclude your meditation on the psalm where the poem naturally ends: with the phrase, "God’s love endures forever" (v. 29), for that phrase is the rock-bottom, powerful word of promise that God gives to all generations.

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[1] Claus Westermann, The Living Psalms (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1989), page 275.
[2] The New Interpreter’s Bible IV (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), page 1156.

 


Psalm 31:9-16                                                                

 

I AM IN DISTRESS - Most of the formulaic language in this lament is shared throughout Jeremiah, Lamentations, and even from within the great fish’s belly by a lamentable Jonah: "I am in distress . . . my eye wastes away . . . my strength fails." There are times in the rhythms of distressed life when such prayers from deep within us.

CS LEWIS - The Father can be well pleased in that Son only who adheres to the Father when apparently forsaken. The fullest grace can be received by those only who continue to obey during the dryness in which all grace seems to be withheld.  [2]

SUFFERING BECAUSE OF - The language of our lesson is open-ended; it seems to suggest simultaneously grief, sickness, depression, and persecution. This descriptive language of suffering is especially poignant in the phrase, "a broken vessel" (v. 12), or more literally, "a perishing vessel." Perhaps despite-or because of his/her suffering the psalmist is experiencing what is to be reserved for the wicked. Like Jeremiah who also suffered because of his trust and his faithfulness in proclaiming God’s word, so this psalmist’s very life is extinguished because of his/her faithfulness to God’s will.  [1]

 

St. John of the Cross describes the lament periods of our spiritual journey as being a dark night of the soul (which is also the title of his work). Succinctly stated, God sometimes allows us to feel abandoned by God and all others so that we will grow in faithfulness regardless of our emotions. In what way might this be at least somewhat true in your own spiritual journey?

On the continuum of 1. orientation (life is orderly and stable); 2. disorientation (abrupt changes upset the equilibrium of our lives); 3. reorientation (some sense of normalcy returns, but we’re never the same again), where do you find yourself at this time in your life?

 

Begin with an anecdote about Dag Hammarskj÷ld (Secretary-General of the Untied Nations and considered one of the most outstanding and highly respected international leaders of the 20th century): "On his travels around the world Hammarskj÷ld always took three items with him. These items were found in his briefcase that was recovered after the plane crash that took his life in September 1961: a copy of the New Testament, a copy of the Psalms and a copy of the United Nations Charter."

Segue into Psalm 31-Hammarskj÷ld understood clearly that the book of Psalms presents nothing short of God’s claim upon the whole world. Even when our world falls apart-even when Christ’s world began to fall apart, the Psalms formed his final words.

Describe the nature of lament-that over 60% of the psalms are lament; structure: opening address, O Lord (or "Help!!!!") / Description of distress / Plea or petition for God’s intervention / Reasons why God should jump in and help out / glimmer of hope and confidence in God / Promise to do-be better as a result of God’s deliverance.

Introduce St. John of the Cross’s "Dark Night of the Soul" if familiar with it

Shift to the passion of Christ - perhaps use the Gibson film as a way into the story of Jesus; but get us there where we can hear-and see-Christ’s lament.

Offer the lament of Psalm 31 to become our place in times of suffering and hold out the glimmer of hope that we find in vv. 19-24.

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[1] C.S. Lewis, in The Quotable Lewis, Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds. (Tyndale, 1989), p. 461.
[2] The New Interpreter’s Bible IV (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), page 807.

 

 

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