Saturday, 25 August 2012

Notes on Psalm 19 - sermon 12th August

Paddy started by reminding us of the words of the collect for today:
Collect for Trinity 10: “make us to ask for such things as will please you”
and introduced the confession prayers as follows:

“solemn” means “joyfully serious” – confession is a solemn moment, because confessing our sins is a serious business, but we will know the joy of being forgiven.

(I’ve not managed to find this definition of solemn anywhere – all the on-line dictionaries major on the serious side and don’t reference the joyful side of the word - but I do agree that solemn and joyful is a good mindset for approaching confession)

Onto the Psalm: started by a reference to the Perseid meteor showers last night and tonight between midnight and 2 am which no one in church really knew much about. The the link is how looking at the night sky can reveal God's nature to us.

The clue to the meaning of the psalm, as is so often, is at the end; having thought about all these facets of our God, how will we respond?

Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,    making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless,    innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

 
Verses 1-6   God speaks to us through the skies
Verses 7-10 God speaks to us through the scriptures
Hebrew poetry is constructed in linked pairs of phrases, the second of which interprets the first.
Verses 11-13 God's purpose in giving us the law
Verses 14 The psalmist's response.
In the first part, the psalmist is experiencing God talking to him without words. It is hard to explain what this feels like or how it works – like looking at a painting (or listening to music)

File:Von Zinzendorf.jpgThe picture, left, is "Ecce Homo", by Domenico Feti, is in the art gallery of Dusseldorf. A visiting nobleman, Nicolaus Zinzendorf, is said to have stood and stared at it for a long while. The words in Latin at the bottom of the picture can be translated as  “This I have done for you: what have you done for me?”. It led to Zinzendorf starting a religious community on part of his estates  (Picture from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Zinzendorf


(Picture of Ecce Homo copied and pasted this picture from this blog post: http://lotrbook.blogspot.co.uk/2007/02/ecce-homo.html)
 
We had been staying in Hay-on-Wye where there is significantly less light pollution than at home. We were just about able to make out the Milky Way. I remember camping out in the garden as a child, and seeing the Milky Way as a great pathway of stars reaching across the sky. One day we will have to go somewhere where I can see this again...
File:Milkyway pan1.jpg
360-degree panorama view of the Milky Way Galaxy (an assembled mosaic of photographs). wikipedia
The skies speak of the glory of God which cannot be communicated by words (Ezekiel had the same problem trying to describe his experience)

(I remember a preacher at our church, years ago, saying how she had had a rotten birthday – alone, no-one at work knew it was her birthday, and she hated her work anyway, and no birthday cards from anyone, and feeling utterly miserable. On the way home, she saw the most beautiful, spectacular sunset, and it came to her that this was a special birthday “card” from God tor her”)

George Matheson is the name of the hymn writer who wrote the words of "O love that will not let me go" full of phrases about light and rainbows to describe the nature of God; phenomena which he could no longer see as he became virtually blind while still young. (short biography here  http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/m/a/t/matheson_g.htm)
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
The glory of the Lord is about Joy.
The second half of the psalm is all about The Lord: the covenant name for God: and different words for The Law

Did you know that the Bible – that is to say, the word of God, and his Laws – has always been top of the bestselling list of books apart from one year (1962, Lady Chatterley’s Lover!)
wikipedia again!
Honey is associated with learning in the Scriptures. An ancient tradition in Judaism is for the father, when the children are 4, to write the scriptures on a slate, and then cover them with honey, and the child licks the honey off, so that scripture is associated with the sweet taste of honey (I have read somewhere that an Islamic tradition is that the father of a baby writes the name of God in honey on the baby’s tongue, so that an early taste is the sweet name of God. This reminds me of a Sunday School lesson years ago on Psalm 34, where we wrote “The Lord” in writing icing on a biscuit and ate it, “ taste and see that the name of the Lord is Good Psalm 38 v 4. that was a popular lesson.

The final verse is the famous prayer which preachers often use at the beginning of their sermon. Our response to experiencing the hugeness of God.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Kirsten. You've sent me on a quest for the derivation of "solemn" - apparently it might be connected with "solllus" - whole or safe. That would be a good link with confession/absolution!

    Love Psalm 19 and all texts that remind us to look at the heavens... North Norfolk is a good place to see the Milky Way (especially as it was once called the Walsingham Way).

    Blessings! x

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