High River United Church of High River, Alberta

A Message to Connect - May 11

Grace & Peace to you,

Susan’s Reflections on Psalm 11

The psalms have been the main hymnbook for Christians for most of the two thousand years of our faith. Few early hymns exist beyond the psalms. Philippians 2:6-11 is thought to have been sung, the first Christian hymn. A Latin hymn, “Of a Father’s Love Begotten” has continued in use since the 12th century. But until the time of Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748), most singing done in church was the singing of the psalms and the parts of the Mass (Gloria, Benedictus, etc.) Watts, followed by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), established the Protestant tradition of hymn singing beyond the psalms. Yet, so many of our hymns are still rooted in the Psalms, a product of the Scottish Psalter (1658) and our Presbyterian heritage. The practice within many Benedictine monasteries, through the centuries, was to chant all 150 psalms each week as part of their daily eight times of prayer.


I was thinking about this practice of chanting the psalms and of the psalms being the primary hymnbook of the church for almost 20 centuries. That means that this repetition of the psalm form, which we are starting to experience, was ingrained in people’s faith lives.


Psalm 11, like many psalms, begins with a strong statement of faith in God. “In the Lord, I take refuge.” Then the psalm goes on to raise a question, complaint or frustration. In this psalm, the question is addressed to the audience: “How can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains, because the wicked are arming themselves.” Then, the psalm returns to a firm declaration of God’s presence and trust in God’s loving justice.


I might be tempted to say, “Oh, this psalm is just like yesterday’s psalm – the wicked attack, but I trust in God!” Yet, a choice was made to include 150 psalms and a choice was made to include this repetition of themes. Over and over again, from different angles, the message is repeated – yes, life is challenging, life is difficult, enemies abound, and God is always faithful, God’s steadfast love endures forever. 150 times we hear that message – maybe that is what it takes for the message to sink in. Then think about repeating all 150 of these psalms every week!!!


The interesting piece of this psalm, for me, is the opening verse: “In the Lord I take refuge so how can you suggest to me that I should flee to the mountains like a bird.”


To flee what is challenging, distressing and threatening is a natural instinct. Flight is a way of surviving. Yet, this psalm from the Jewish tradition, and also the practice of the Christian faith urge a different approach.


Through the centuries, one of the distinctives of Christians has been their willingness to offer help and care in the midst of disaster and illness, rather than running away. While our natural instinct may be to flee what is alarming, the message of the psalms and the message of Jesus is that we can instead, with the courage of our faith, turn toward the disaster and offer God’s loving care. Right now, we absolutely need to do that while safely distancing and taking precautions not to spread the virus, yet we can still reach out in so many ways to be love and compassion for those who need support.


“In the Lord I take refuge.” – this is a statement of both trust and rest. In God, we find courage to face the journey we are on together right now. In God, we can find a place to rest and restore our souls.   What a gift the psalms offer us in 150 voices that help that message sink in, right to the core of our bones.


Take care, each of you. We are in this together & God is with us on this journey as well.


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

 HRUC - cowboys and cow




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