High River United Church of High River, Alberta

A Message to Connect - May 5

Grace & Peace to you!

PEI Gables path 1 Photo by Susan Lukey

David’s Reflections on Psalm 5

If there was ever a body of literature that gets to the heart of the matter, even if in a rather raw way, it’s the Psalms.  Whenever I dip into the Psalms I feel like I need to put on my seat belt, because the ride might be a little rough.  Just imagine riding in the back of an old pick-up down a early springtime pot-holed Alberta gravel road.  It’s going to be bumpy. That’s the Psalms.


So far I’ve used the words, raw, rough, and bumpy to give fair warning for reading the Psalms.  We need to be ready for how real, authentic and emotional the Psalms are for us.  They are very human and capture the very essence of our vulnerability, our frustration, our despair, our joy, and our gratitude, for example.  The poetic text can take us to the bottom of a pit, and then move us to the mountain peak.  The Psalms are quite remarkable in that way because they introduce us to our human experience and embrace the whole of that experience with the power, love, patience, and wisdom of God.


Psalm 5, like many Psalms begins with cry for help… “Give ear to my words, give heed to my sighing, listen to the sound of my cry”.  This is so real!  How many times do we just need to cry out to God and ask God to hear our words, heed our sighing and listen to our crying out?  In this case, the Palmist has suffered the scams and wickedness of those who cause harm, who thwart truth and reap destruction.  We’ve met people who match these descriptions.  We may have also suffered at their hands through whatever form of abuse, violence, or lies.  A recent CBC article is already warning Canadians to beware of scammers concocting illegal loans and other conniving plots to take advantage of those struggling from the economic hardship caused by COVID.  Interestingly Biblical Scholar James Mays points out that the Hebrew word for enemies (vv. 8-9 ) is rooted in a word associated with those who “watch with the concentration that a carnivore gives its intended prey.”  So now you know what I mean by keeping our seatbelt on, because this language is pretty hardcore.


Here’s the thing… generally speaking the Psalms, and Psalm 5 in particular will always go the heart of the matter. So, we have to hear the lament.  We have to deal with emotional release of having been wronged.  The Psalmist launches the raw emotions associated with injustice and suffering in a prayer to God and does that in a flat-out way… so honestly, because it’s real and it matters.  The wisdom of Psalm 5 is not stuck on the transgressors because neither is God.  There’s no room for them in God’s kingdom… “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you…” (vs.4a) Recognizing that fact, the Psalmist draws forth a rather powerful conclusion:  wrongdoing and wickedness will fall by their own counsels (vs. 10b).  The Psalmist prays for God’s way to be made straight and at the end of the day rests in the profound wisdom that the righteous are blessed and that God covers them with favour as with a shield (vs12).


How are we supposed to feel about all of this?  Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.  The Psalms can be very crunchy or gritty.   I like that the Psalms don’t sugar-coat things even though their plain-speak might jostle us around.  Sometimes we need to pray out our emotions and sufferings without editing ourselves.  How often do we soft-peddle our suffering, fearing that to speak plainly might not be polite or nice or even worthy?  God deserves to hear our cry, our sighs, our suffering.  Just today when I asked how someone was doing, they flat out told me they felt like… crap.  Given the situation, it was a very good choice of words.  When we are betrayed by COVID, by nature, by human conniving, by illness and suffering, I would suggest that God is not interested in polite or nice prayers and more inclined to an honest sigh, or a shout of anger.  The path made straight is the one that leads us to God’s loving and compassionate heart.  If we can invite God’s ear to be inclined to our sighs and cries, how much better is that and how much better we will feel. 


Psalm 5 appeals to our honest response in the face of injustice and wickedness and shows us how to pray.  And, of course, we know and history reminds us that even in the face of carnivorous and wicked ways, hope and goodness are provided when we seek refuge in the faithful, and loving ways of God.  Psalm 5 begins with a pleading morning prayer.  It ends with rejoicing and singing with joy for those who take refuge in God.  There in be… evening prayer.


With love and blessings,

Rev. Susan & Rev. David

High River United Church – a community of help, home & hope

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.” A. Heschel



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