High River United Church of High River, Alberta

Waving to You on what would have been Parade Weekend - May 14

Grace & Peace to You,  

 The Little Britches’ Parade would have happened this coming Saturday, and it will probably be a beautiful parade day – sigh! But since we can’t gather for that, David and Susan stood where they usually stand for the parade and took this picture waving to you:


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David’s Reflections on Psalms 14 & 15

Houston, we have a problem…(Apollo 13 mission) These words were evoked as soon as I read the phrase in Psalm 14: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God”’. I had to sit with this for a bit. It would be easy for any one of us to conclude that these words are making a case against atheism. They are not. We know in our time that there are many eloquent arguments for and against the existence of God. Psalm 14 is not operating in that territory at all. Rather, it begins with how we operate in our decision making and upon what assumptions we base those decisions.


The key word in Hebrew is nabal. In English, this word is rendered in its plural form, fools. Again, we have to be careful because it does not mean silly, inept, or stupid. In verse 1, nabal interpreted as fool(s) means someone who makes a wrong assumption or makes a mistake about reality (James Mays, Psalms: Interpretation Series, p.80). To further this awareness, did you know that there is actually a Biblical character named Nabal—a very rich and powerful sheep and goat herder who misjudges David during a transaction out in the shepherding territory, not far from what is today the modern town of Main, 7 miles southeast of Hebron. He is known by his name—Fool (Nabal). You can read all about it 1 Samuel 25.


At the very outset, Psalm 14 is calling into question whether we have a good grasp on reality. And that dear friends, is as significant a theological question for the psalmist as it is for us moderns. The questions raised are not about the existence or non-existence of God in terms of debating atheism, but more about what authority we call upon and what assumptions we make based on that authority. For the psalmist, God is understood as the giver of life, and the one we call upon when we need to set our intentions, make our decisions, and live accordingly.


When the psalms were being written, everyone believed in a god of some kind. Life for the faithful Hebrews was lived out within a covenant relationship with the Divine. It was a loving relationship with the Divine. For the faithful it meant life, choosing life, choosing blessing, choosing love. The “fool” is the one who bases decisions on a whole other set of assumptions and “makes a mistake about reality”.


Psalms 14 and 15 approach the question of “how than shall we live” from both ends of the equation. Psalm 14 observes the behaviour of the wider society, and Psalm 15 observes the nature of the individual. And that’s why I put both together for today.


If you are still with me by this point, and I hope you are… you can see why we need to move past the surface of these texts and plumb their depths. This is always more challenging and requires our patience. Perhaps we see how society operates based on decisions formed by wrong assumptions or even magical thinking—we are all subject to these inclinations. And that’s why Psalm 14 is significant. It might help us think through things more clearly and draw upon wisdom that is much bigger than us – divine wisdom. Psalm 15 helps us out by describing the kinds of merit we associate with those who strive to abide within the covenant between themselves and God. We see character development here and behaviours that are wise, inclusive, compassionate, and capable of thinking about the needs of others, especially friends and neighbours. They are also not lenders with interest or ones who accept bribes (Ps. 15:5)


If “Houston” is the one called upon when in trouble, the astronauts know they are in relationship with someone beyond themselves and they know their life depends upon that bigger and collaborative connection. Houston will be the one who helps those astronauts make appropriate decisions base on grounded assumptions and a clear awareness of their reality.


As we venture into the long weekend for some patio time and appreciation for the warming days and nights, as you sip the beverage of your choice and kick back… I wonder, as you enjoy the outdoors or look at the stars at night, how you might marvel about the wider source of wisdom and divine presence that guides your assumptions and grounds you in the decisions you make?


Only fools would dismiss that which is bigger and beyond themselves. And then… Houston does have a problem!


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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