Three-Sided Ice Bucket . . . or is it Four?

Han Solo
Have you seen the “Ice Bucket Challenge?” If you’ve spent more than five minutes on Facebook you’ve probably already been tagged and challenged. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a short video challenging others to either donate $100 to the ALS Association or donate only $25 and make up the difference by dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. It’s pretty genius. Contributions to ALS research have quadrupled this quarter according to some sources. I think I might start a new campaign. You have to contribute $100 to The Well or donate only $25 and listen to “Han Solo Wouldn’t Say ‘I Love You'” (my worst sermon ever, deliver in 2007. Actually the debate on what’s my worst sermon is a weekly challenge. You never know when you’ll crown a new winner).

Not everyone agrees that the Ice Bucket Challenge is a good thing. Some disagree with the kind of research the ALS Association is doing. Others living in drought-striken areas are calling attention to the amount of water wasted in the videos. Still others call the campaign a shallow example of our narcissistic, selfie-obsessed culture.

Even though my uncle succumbed to ALS, and the disease sucks–every bit of it sucks (pardon my language, though this is the censored version); this article isn’t about ALS or the Ice Bucket Challenge or the wasted water or selfies.

ice bucketAm I supposed to be “for” the Ice Bucket Challenge or am I supposed to be “against” it? Sound silly? Good! Having to “pick a side” is exhausting. In our Post-Post Modern culture the individual is the canon of truth and if something doesn’t measure up, it’s wrong. We can certainly talk about being Pro or Anti fill in the blank, but what I want you to think about today is this: A dualistic world is too simple for a Triune God.

There are never only two options, and if someone is telling you there are only two sides, you must meet their advice with swift and immediate suspicion. Because God exists in three persons there are at least three lenses through which we see truth. There is my experience, there is your experience, and there is that which is independent of both you and me. Shoot, I would go so far as to say there are four ways of understanding what truly is: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When Caiaphas asks Jesus, “Are you the Messiah,” Jesus offers a different answer in each Gospel. That doesn’t mean scripture is wrong; rather truth is greater than what my two eyeballs can perceive.

A dualistic world is too simple for a Triune God. So, if you get tagged for the ALS challenge, get creative! If water is a concern then donate to the ALS Society and Advent Conspiracy. If you disagree with the means of ALS research, then donate to pension for ALS nurses and care givers. Consider yourself challenged! If you refuse, then I will hand-deliver “Han Solo Wouldn’t Say I Love You,” and you will regret every minute of it.

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Beautiful Feet–Romans 10:5-15

Beautiful Feet“Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” I might amend that to say, “Beautiful are the feet which fit in last year’s school shoes.” You might think that scripture would say, “Beautiful is the face,” or “Beautiful is the voice,” but no, “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” Feet are important. According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, footwear contributed $354 Billion to the American Economy in 2012. Footwear is a lucrative business, and I think it’s a fair statement to say that the industry is built on the promise shoes offer. Shoes promise to make you jump higher, run faster, stand taller, walk without pain, make an outfit, work harder, etc. The good news these beautiful feet offer also make a promise—“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Not “might be,” or “could be,” or if they never screw up there is a possibility of salvation—it says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Saved from what? Fair question. Paul doesn’t say . . . well, sort of. If “Confess Jesus Christ as your savior and you shall be saved,” is enough for you, then I say, “Amen!” You have my blessing to stop reading, but I need more. What are we talking about? What is Confession? What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord? Saved from what?
righteous“Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that the person who does these things will live by them.’” Paul is quoting Leviticus 18:5 as he sets up his argument between “righteousness from the law” and “righteousness from faith.” “Righteousness” means, “Ongoing relationship or connection with God.” Sometimes we think of righteousness as never messing up or being holy or being right all the time. You are one of the righteous when you have an ongoing and consistent connection with God. Usually good choices, a sense of peace, deep and abiding friendships, these things can flow from loving God and neighbor, but they aren’t the prerequisite. It’s not that you do these good things which counts you as righteous; rather your connection with God gives birth to good things.
lawPaul sets up an argument about “righteousness from the law” and “righteousness from faith.” These are not mutually exclusive. It is not about following one or the other. Paul is not throwing out the law, in fact to argue “righteousness from faith,” he quotes the law—Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Romans 10:5-8 are quotes from Leviticus 18 and Deuteronomy 30, respectively. So when Paul is talking about righteousness from faith as opposed to the law, he’s quoting from the law. That should be our first clue that the goal is not to throw away the law—Paul’s using it! On one side we have “righteousness from the law” or having a connection with God through the law—the person who does these things will live by them. On the other side we have “righteousness from faith,” or relationship with God through faith. What’s the difference?
tiger stadiumFootball season is so close I can taste it. One way to look at this is to imagine a football field. The Law is the boundary line. It shows us what is out-of-bounds, so to speak. You don’t have much of a game if there isn’t an end zone or yard markers. Faith, on the other hand, is what happens within the boundaries. Faith is the actual game. Having a connection with football through the law would be like painting the white lines on the field. It’s a great meditative practice, but at the end of the day the score is still zero to zero. Bringing the football across the goal line is what actually has value. Now, every metaphor has its limits, but follow me… The point is the game. Professional wide receivers can run a ten-yard out route without looking at the lines on the field. At some point, you get so good at playing you no longer need lines. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart,” Paul says via Deut. 30.
If I were to say, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” what goes through your mind? How about “Four score and seven years ago?” How about “I have a dream?” There are some images in our culture so vivid that only a word or a phrase is needed. When Paul writes, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart,” the community would have remembered Moses standing before the crowd in Deuteronomy, saying to them, “Here is the will of God. Here is the law. If you follow it, it will be a blessing to you. If you turn from it, it will become a curse to you.” By the time Paul is writing, the Jewish community knew that the Law had become a curse because they had turned away from it. This gave rise to the Pharisees who zealously following the law in order to reverse the curse, so to speak, but reversing the curse is not something humanity is able to achieve. When Paul says, “Confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord,” it goes beyond what the mouth says. Paul is talking about the recognition that it is through Christ and not zealously following the law, that we are reconciled. Paul is not pointing us to confession as much as Paul is pointing us to Jesus. Some take this more literally, saying, “You have to say that Jesus is Lord,” but that is akin to painting the lines on the field. The point isn’t the confession; as much as living the realization that Jesus is Lord.

ConfessionNow, the lines are needed. Confession is needed. Daily confession is needed. For many, there comes a time when you hit your knees, look up to the heavens and say, “Lord, what I’m doing ain’t working.” If that is where you are, I pray that you offer me the opportunity to bless the water and pour it over your head and say, “You are forgiven. Get up, you beautiful child of God. But at a certain point, your Christian journey is such that you don’t need the lines anymore, your action, your attitude, your very presence expresses that Jesus is Lord. It is Jesus who reverses the curse not my righteousness. If you want to be Methodist about it, it’s called Sanctification. It’s part of the process of salvation. Justification is when the master looks at the Prodigal and says, “Welcome home.” Sanctification is the power of the Holy Spirit to keep you in the master’s house.
passoverThose who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Saved from what? That’s a great question. This would have been a grand opportunity for Paul to lay out his doctrine of Hell, but he didn’t. So, what are we talking about? Hang on to your seat! Verse 13—“Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord,” refers to Joel 2:32, which is talking about The Day of the Lord. Joel says, “I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those who the Lord calls.” This for Joel is referencing Ezekiel 32 which reads, “Mortal, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him . . . I will drench the land with your flowing blood up to the mountains, and the watercourses will be filled with you. When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon shall not give its light,” which remembers Exodus 10 and the plague of darkness which is the plague that leads into the death of the first born and the Passover. So when Paul says that those who call upon the Lord will be saved, they will be saved from darkness, from death, from being forgotten, from endless bondage for it was the death of the first born and the blood of the lamb which caused the angel of death to pass over the Ancient Israelites, leading them into freedom. So who is the Lord to whom we call out? You see, Paul isn’t necessarily talking about the after life; rather he is trying to show the people that the Lord is not the Law. The Lord is Christ Jesus.
feetHow will they know? Who will tell them? Often these few verses are used to legitimize evangelism. I want to go on record in saying that I have no problem with spreading the Gospel. Please hear me! Paul is referring to Israel. How will Israel know that Christ is the Lord? Masterfully, Paul has been using the law as a means to point to Christ this whole time. So when he asks, “How will they know?” It’s been there from the beginning. When he says, “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news,” he’s not talking about bring the gospel to the Amazon, again a fruitful mission, just not what Paul is talking about. “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news,” is an answer to the question because it is a reference to the messiah from Isaiah 52-55. Jesus is from God. Jesus is the way. Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns…” See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high . . . surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed . . . Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy, and eat! Incline you ear, and come to me; listen so that you may live. I will make with you and everlasting covenant (55:1, 3).
Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. The feet which were pierced and the feet which walked out of the tomb so that we might be saved, so that we might find abundant life. Go and live as if you believe it to be true. May you find abundant life today. Amen and amen.

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The Sad Clown

sunflowers“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things” (Doctor Who, Season 5, Episode 10).

The Doctor flew his TARDIS to meet Vincent Van Gogh. After battling demons, figurative and real, the doctor invited the saddened and depressed Van Gogh to fly to the future with him in order to see just how important was his life. Standing in the British National Gallery Vincent wept as he sees his “Sunflowers” under the soft, white light of importance while the curator says, “Not only was he the most important artist in the world, he was one of the most important people in the world.” Vincent is overcome with an emotional flood, which a struggling soul rarely feels in the apathetic nothingness of depression. They fly back to to 1889 Arles, France thinking that knowing of his greatness, Vincent’s self-demise would have been stayed. The Doctor and his companion, Amy, return to the National Gallery where they learn that Vincent’s fate was unchanged.

Vincent“How can this be?” Amy asks the Doctor. I often find grand theological themes in Doctor Who, namely the nature of salvation in terms of time, identity, and ethics, but the message is a bit different this time. The Doctor sometimes talks about “fixed points” in time, unchangeable events impossible to alter. I’m not saying that John Calvin would lean in this direction, but if he did, Wesley would have leaned an equal measure in the opposite direction. That’s another article. In this case, the story is less about what can or cannot be changed as it is a humbling reflection on the depth of depression, and how we, the living, are to hold one another in times of unexplainable tragedy.

harpoI usually don’t get emotional when tragedy strikes celebrities, but hearing that Robin Williams has died due to an apparent suicide gave me pause. The art of comedy is just as mystifying and life giving as is composition
or oil painting or athleticism or poetry. I would argue that answering “Why do we laugh?” is a harder question to answer than most, which is why one of the few pictures hanging on my office wall is that of Harpo Marx. There’s something essential and mysterious about laughter and its cause.

I wish I were laughing more. It’s sad news, and there’s so much of it–the seemingly senseless murder of Michael Brown (which I fear will quickly be forgotten), the desperate mountain-top existence of refugees escaping violence in Iraq, the burrows and bombs of Israel and Palestine, and the tension and hate close to home which we’d prefer to hide away.

JesusMaybe more than ever we are in need of the sad clown. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to the musical, Godspell. Jesus appears in white-face and oversized shoes, but is deeply grieved over the brokenness of the world. After all, “Joy,” is what we call the peace of God that continues within us during times of tragedy. It’s not happiness, nor is it void of pain. Jesus said to the crowd, “Blessed are you when you are reviled. Leap for joy for great is your reward in heaven.” Maybe he had Psalm 30:5 in mind–“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Or is it “Joy comes with the mourning.” I forget…

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Omnificence–Psalm 139

Psalm 139If I place an opened cookie jar on the table in the middle of my three daughters, I’m pretty sure I know what is going to happen. Isabelle will negotiate an agreement to obtain a cookie. Annaleigh will bat her eyes and ask through pouted lips, “Daddy, can I have a cookie?” Cecilia will impatiently wait until her sisters get the cookie, and then she will take it from them. If I place unprotected cookies in the center of the table I know what’s going to happen. Does that mean I can tell the future? I don’t think so, but it does mean that I know my daughters better than they know themselves.

know thyself
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me,” begins Psalm 139. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and the good news is that God still bothers to be our God. “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, You know it completely.” Some would ask, “Then what’s the point?” Indeed. What is the point of singing “How Great is Our God.” I’m assuming today isn’t the first time you’ve heard it, and if it was I pray that it was a blessing to you. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” A few days ago I read Madeline to my girls during bed, bath, and beyond. We all know the story. That doesn’t mean we only read it once. God knows the words that are on your tongue and in your heart, and we are called to share them. God is not a manager who is interested in the daily report. God is fundamentally interested in you. Saying “I love you” to my wife is not a conveyance of information; rather it is an investment in relationship. God knows what is on our heart, and the good news is that God will take the time to listen anyway.
“You know when I sit down and when I rise up.” How purposefully mundane is that? I would expect that God would take notice of when we saved the company or reinvented public education or solved world hunger and certainly God smiles because of the big stuff, but God is also there when we first open our eyes in the morning and when we close them at night. When we can find God in those moments between breaths we begin to grasp at the awesomeness of God.

omnipresent
These first six verses remind us of God’s unlimited knowledge, and the next six verses reveals God’s unlimited presence. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol you are there.” It is easy to miss the scandal of presence the poet suggests. After God offered the Law to Moses and the Ancient Israelites he commanded that they built a tent or tabernacle so that God could travel with them. Later after the kingdom was established, Solomon built a Temple in which God could live. When the Temple was in Jerusalem, God dwelt in the Holy of Holies. You would bring your sacrifice to the Temple. You would bring your offering to the Temple. You would go to God, in essence. The poet, here, doesn’t mention the Temple. He specifically mentions God being outside of the Temple. We like walls. We like boundaries and borders. It helps us define who we are and who we are not.

Borders do have a purpose and are important, but they can be taken too far. Do we really believe that God can be in both Israel and Gaza? Do we really believe that God is in both Russia and Ukraine? Do we have faith that God is traveling with immigrant children forced to find a better way? It is a complex issue, and there will be great politicking and posturing. Will not be able to solve Israeli/Palestinia and Russian/Ukrainian and North and South American border disputes in the context of this worship service today, but what I want to say is this. Can we with the Psalmist also proclaim the scandal of God’s unbound presence? If I make my bed on this side of the wall or that side of the wall, on neither side can I run from God’s presence, and that should give us pause when tension escalates to violence.

God is omniscient, unbound by human intellect. God is also omnipresent, unbound by the walls we build, whether the walls surround nations or buildings or they are the walls into which we put each other or the walls we build around our own heart. If I ascend to heaven, when I’m enjoying the best of times, you are there. When I make my bed in Sheol, when I have hit rock bottom, you are there. When my soul leaps for joy you are there. When my heart breaks your heart breaks as well. Where can I go to flee from your presence?

Unbinding LazarusA God who is all-knowing and always present is one thing, but the next few verses reveal that the very essence of God resides in our own fingertips. “For it was you who formed my inward parts. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The more you learn about a painter the more you are able to recognize the fingerprints of his or her own work. The more you know about a musician the more you are able to hear their identity in their music. As we grow in faith we begin to see the face of Christ in each other. You are wonderfully made. Do you believe that? If you are wonderfully made then so is your neighbor, so is the person who was born on the wrong side of the tracks, so is the person at work that you can’t stand, so is your enemy. My how the world would be different if we just meditated on that one verse. We don’t always follow the master’s design, but we all have the capacity to change the world.

God is omniscient, which means that God knows you better than you know yourself. God is omnipresent, which means there are no human-made borders in the kingdom of God. God is omnificent, which means God has unlimited creativity, and it is God’s omnificence which continues to work on you by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is not finished with us, and how thankful I am for that. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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On the Sixth Day, God Created Borders

Chain-link fenceAnd on the sixth day, God looked upon Creation and said, “Let us create borders and divide up the land.” Wait . . . that’s not what it says. Now, I’m not looking to have an immigration reform debate or a discussion on the importance of border control. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough.

What I do know is that my wife and I love our three daughters. What kind of hardship, what kind of violence, what kind of difficulty would cause me to look them in the eye and send them away to seek a better life away from home? Dear God, it breaks my heart to think of it.

As I read the news it seems like I’m reading the same story, and the story is this: “On which side of the wall do I belong?” Yes we are in the midst of a border crisis. Those trying to escape mortar fire in Gaza and Israel would say the same. Is the eastern Ukranian border part of Russia or isn’t it? How much blood needs to be shed over the lines we draw in the sand?

wall 2

I know it’s not as simple as that. The walls we build are erected with the brick and mortar of culture, time, ethnicity, wealth, value . . . But that won’t stop my prayers for all to see the profound truth of Galatians 3:28–that in Christ we are uniquely one. Like voices in a choir we each have the beautiful distinction as a child of God, but all voices are directed to the Lamb. It is not a grey world of lukewarmness, but a vibrant tapestry in which each strand is honored and woven into God’s masterwork.

Our Psalm for Psunday, Psalm 139 says, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (verse 14). Do you believe that to be true about you? Do you believe that to be true of your neighbor? How about your enemy?

Dear God I’m not perfect, and the walls around my heart can be high. May God offer us grace so that Christ may be proclaimed . . .

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Psummer of Psalms Day 37

Psalm 107
Morning: Psalm 106

A Confession of Israel’s Sins

1 Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
3 Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times.

4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people;
help me when you deliver them;
5 that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory in your heritage.

6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned;
we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
7 Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wonderful works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
so that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry;
he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe,
and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 They were jealous of Moses in the camp,
and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.
17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the faction of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf at Horeb
and worshipped a cast image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Saviour,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would disperse their descendants among the nations,
scattering them over the lands.

28 Then they attached themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and interceded,
and the plague was stopped.
31 And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness
from generation to generation for ever.

32 They angered the Lord at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account;
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke words that were rash.

34 They did not destroy the peoples
as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and prostituted themselves in their doings.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes,
and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless, he regarded their distress
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’
Praise the Lord!

Mid-Day: Psalm 107

Thanksgiving for Deliverance from Many Troubles

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7 he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour;
they fell down, with no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
and broke their bonds asunder.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze,
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
20 he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;
37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Evening: Psalm 108

Praise and Prayer for Victory

A Song. A Psalm of David.
1 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make melody.
Awake, my soul!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
3 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
and let your glory be over all the earth.
6 Give victory with your right hand, and answer me,
so that those whom you love may be rescued.

7 God has promised in his sanctuary:
‘With exultation I will divide up Shechem,
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
8 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my sceptre.
9 Moab is my wash-basin;
on Edom I hurl my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.’

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 O grant us help against the foe,
for human help is worthless.
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.

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Psummer of Psalms Day 36

Psalm 103Morning: Psalm 103

Thanksgiving for God’s Goodness

Of David.
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Mid-Day: Psalm 104

God the Creator and Provider

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
2 wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
4 you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.

5 You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
11 giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15 and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
23 People go out to their work
and to their labour until the evening.

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27 These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28 when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

Evening: Psalm 105

God’s Faithfulness to Israel

1 O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
5 Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered,
6 O offspring of his servant Abraham,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

7 He is the Lord our God;
his judgements are in all the earth.
8 He is mindful of his covenant for ever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.’

12 When they were few in number,
of little account, and strangers in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, ‘Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.’

16 When he summoned famine against the land,
and broke every staff of bread,
17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters,
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the Lord kept testing him.
20 The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
21 He made him lord of his house,
and ruler of all his possessions,
22 to instruct his officials at his pleasure,
and to teach his elders wisdom.

23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
24 And the Lord made his people very fruitful,
and made them stronger than their foes,
25 whose hearts he then turned to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.

26 He sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they rebelled against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood,
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and lightning that flashed through their land.
33 He struck their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
and young locusts without number;
35 they devoured all the vegetation in their land,
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the first issue of all their strength.

37 Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.

43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 He gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the Lord!

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Psummer of Psalms Day 35

Psalm 101Morning: Psalm 100

All Lands Summoned to Praise God

A Psalm of thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Mid-Day: Psalm 101

A Sovereign’s Pledge of Integrity and Justice

Of David. A Psalm.
1 I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
to you, O Lord, I will sing.
2 I will study the way that is blameless.
When shall I attain it?

I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is base.

I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 Perverseness of heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

5 One who secretly slanders a neighbour
I will destroy.
A haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not tolerate.

6 I will look with favour on the faithful in the land,
so that they may live with me;
whoever walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.

7 No one who practises deceit
shall remain in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue in my presence.

8 Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all evildoers
from the city of the Lord.

Evening: Psalm 102

Prayer to the Eternal King for Help

A prayer of one afflicted, when faint and pleading before the Lord.
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
on the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily on the day when I call.

3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is stricken and withered like grass;
I am too wasted to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my skin.
6 I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread,
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned for ever;
your name endures to all generations.
13 You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to favour it;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold its stones dear,
and have pity on its dust.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16 For the Lord will build up Zion;
he will appear in his glory.
17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute,
and will not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height,
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die;
21 so that the name of the Lord may be declared in Zion,
and his praise in Jerusalem,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

23 He has broken my strength in mid-course;
he has shortened my days.
24 ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘do not take me away
at the mid-point of my life,
you whose years endure
throughout all generations.’

25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you endure;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall live secure;
their offspring shall be established in your presence.

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Psummer of Psalms Day 34

Psalm 98Morning: Psalm 97

The Glory of God’s Reign

1 The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
7 All worshippers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
8 Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgements, O God.
9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Mid-Day: Psalm 98

Praise the Judge of the World

A Psalm.
1 O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gained him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.

4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Evening: Psalm 99

Praise to God for His Holiness

1 The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
4 Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Extol the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called on his name.
They cried to the Lord, and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
they kept his decrees,
and the statutes that he gave them.

8 O Lord our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Extol the Lord our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy.

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Psummer of Psalms Day 33

Psalm 95Morning: Psalm 94

God the Avenger of the Righteous

1 O Lord, you God of vengeance,
you God of vengeance, shine forth!
2 Rise up, O judge of the earth;
give to the proud what they deserve!
3 O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?

4 They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
5 They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
6 They kill the widow and the stranger,
they murder the orphan,
7 and they say, ‘The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.’

8 Understand, O dullest of the people;
fools, when will you be wise?
9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
10 He who disciplines the nations,
he who teaches knowledge to humankind,
does he not chastise?
11 The Lord knows our thoughts,
that they are but an empty breath.

12 Happy are those whom you discipline, O Lord,
and whom you teach out of your law,
13 giving them respite from days of trouble,
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping’,
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who contrive mischief by statute?
21 They band together against the life of the righteous,
and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He will repay them for their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the Lord our God will wipe them out.

Mid-Day: Psalm 95

A Call to Worship and Obedience

1 O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

6 O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your ancestors tested me,
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they do not regard my ways.’
11 Therefore in my anger I swore,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’

Evening: Psalm 96

Praise to God Who Comes in Judgement

1 O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous works among all the peoples.
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Honour and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in holy splendour;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.’
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.

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