Praise: You visit the earth and water it…Psalm 65:9
- Psalm 65: 1-13 Thanksgiving for earth’s bounty
- Philippians 2:5-11
Praise is due to you, O God, you hear our prayer.
You are the God of our salvation.
You are the hope of all the ends of the earth.
You visit the earth and water it,
you have created the whole world and care for it.
We worship you and sing to you with joy.
Amen. From Psalm 65:1-2, 5, 9, 13
Oriented in the Psalms
Last Sunday we began this 7 Sunday worship series with the Psalms. The Book of the Psalms is the prayer book for Jews and Christians throughout the ages. The Psalms help us worship and pray well. They also help us be honest with ourselves and with God. The Psalms embody every human experience and emotion.
There are many ways to sing and pray the Psalms as Christians and Jews have for years.
The Psalms are voices of faith speaking to and for the community of faith facing the Living God.
Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann has written a guide for the Church to sing and pray the Psalms. He shows how particular Psalms fall into one of three movements that orient the community of faith. These three orientations are reflected in an early Christian hymn from the New Testament letter to the Philippians.
They are Psalms of:
Orientation : “Though he was in the form of God…”
Disorientation : “He emptied himself….”
New Orientation : “Therefore God has exalted him…”
The liturgical worship form of this movement from orientation to disorientation to new orientation is also reflected in baptism as our living, dying and rising with Christ.
(Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms , 11)
Praise is due to you, O God! Psalm 65: 1
The Psalm that brings us face-to-face with God this Sunday is the 65 th Psalm. In the orientation framework, it is a Psalm of new orientation (Brueggemann, 135-36).
Psalm 65 is a powerful public song of praise to the God of new orientation that emerges from a season of disorientation . It is a hymn in three parts sung to God. Verses 1-4 are a hymn of praise to God. Verse 5 offers thanksgiving to God. Verses 6-13 proclaim God’s work in and through creation.
Song of Praise – verses 1-4
In our new orientation , our song of praise is addressed to God. The Psalmist begins:
Praise is due to you , O God, in Zion ;
To you shall vows be performed,
To you all flesh shall come. (vv. 1-2)
This is a public communal liturgical address to God. The people singing this hymn of new orientation recognize their communal guilt. The community of faith as a whole recognizes its sin of turning to false gods – the gods of violence, self-sufficiency, despoiling creation. They receive forgiveness by the only God who can forgive.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions….
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of…. your holy temple . (vv. 3-4)
Brueggemann tells us:
The problem is that the public imagination is so filled with pride, self-serving complacency, and moral numbness that we could hardly imagine an act of public repentance or acknowledgement of forgiveness, for to ask for and receive forgiveness is to be vulnerable. (135)
This Psalm is as real and relevant today as it was nearly three thousand years ago. Public life cries out for a public liturgical act of repentance and praise to God.
Thanksgiving for God’s intervention – verse 5
Verse 5 is the pivotal word in the song thanking God for intervening and liberating them from sin. The people know that God has liberated them from their disorientation to false gods to a new orientation to God. God has acted and the people must now be prepared to act in complete faith and commitment to God. They sing with the Psalmist:
By awesome deeds, you answer us….O God of our salvation; (v. 5).
Singing to God of all creation – verses 5b-13
The rest of the hymn has God’s people singing a litany of God’s work in the whole creation. You are the God who establishes, who stills, who makes, who enriches, who visits, who provides, who waters, who crowns (vv. 6-11).
Finally, this grand hymn bursts with recognition that all creation reflects God’s glory:
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
This Psalm song is truly a creation theology, singing thanksgiving to God for ordering and blessing life. For all the mystery of God, the people are brought to a new orientation to God with the public knowledge that God not only intervenes in the oppressive processes of public life but God reigns in all creation.
In their public worship the people “shout and sing together for joy” to God.
A New Orientation to the God of “Intelligent Design”
Today we sing and pray this Psalm to the God of an “intelligent design” far beyond naïve notions and contemporary convulsions of Christians clamoring to force God into a box that conflicts with science and competes with reason. The Psalmist knows that this is a God in collaboration and co-existence with God’s creation.
In this Psalm we find new orientation to God – the only true God of the ever-constant and ever-changing universe inspiring us to “shout and sing together for joy!” (v. 13).