High River United Church of High River, Alberta

Connecting with You - June 11
Grace & Peace to you on this sunny day!


Susan’s Reflections on Psalm 41

 With psalm 41, we reach the end of what is designated Book One in the psalms. The book is called in Hebrew Tellahim ??????????. The English word, psalm, comes from the Greek, psalmoi, ??????, meaning instrumental music.  


The entire book of Psalms, somewhere along the way, perhaps when it was compiled was divided into five sections or “books.”

Book 1 (Psalms 1–41)

Book 2 (Psalms 42–72)

Book 3 (Psalms 73–89)

Book 4 (Psalms 90–106)

Book 5 (Psalms 107–150)


Book 1 and Book 2 are contain the psalms considered to have been written by King David (psalms 3 -41 & 51-72). Other psalms come from various groups of temple musicians, as well as other, often unknown, authors. Some of the divisions and distinctions between psalms come from the Hebrew word used to name God. YHWH (I am what I am), Elohim (the God of hosts) and Adonai (Lord) – though these distinctions are often lost with the translation into English. The concluding psalm of each book ends with a doxology – words praising God, with Psalm 150, the conclusion to the whole book being the grandest psalm of all.


Psalm 41 continues the theme we’ve noticed in so many of the previous psalms, calling on God for healing, help and forgiveness. This psalm is unique in this group in that it begins with a “beatitude” or a blessing. “Happy are those who consider the poor….” which is also translated are “Blessed are those who consider the poor…” This calls to mind the Beatitudes which Jesus spoke to his disciples, especially the first one, expressed in Matthew 5:3 as “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven,” and in Luke 6:20 as “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.”   I imagine that Jesus had Psalm 41 in mind when he shared the beatitudes, and I would guess that Luke’s version is a closer remembering of what Jesus said because it deals with the actual poor, not just the poor in spirit….but that’s another discussion.


Psalm 41 expresses a deep trust in God’s presence and God’s action in the world. Yet, it also deals with some of the dilemma a faithful person feels when we can’t quite figure out how God is at work in the world or in our lives.  


Always there is a confidence that one can face even those who whisper behind one’s back or wish mischief and destruction because the Lord is God, from everlasting to everlasting.   This psalm captures that sense that we do not know and can not know everything about God -- and indeed it is not necessary to have the whole picture of God because in the end God is from everlasting to everlasting, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. God is big enough and everlasting enough to hold whatever we are facing and to give us confidence to move forward in faith. With this doxology, or words of praise, Book 1 of the psalms comes to a conclusion.


David’s Reflections on Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. (vs. 1)

I am a farmer’s son. I grew up on the land and with the land. I have witnessed thirsty soil drink up the rain and then push forth life. On the high prairie with its periods of hot and dry, there is nothing more refreshing, more life-giving, than witnessing the rain seep into the arid earth. One summer, after an intense week or so of dry and dusty heat, the rain finally came… I stood outside and let it fall over me.   There are few words to describe the relief as the soft rain washed over my face, settled the dust around me, and brought moisture to the cracked ground.


There are moments when our soul is dried up. We thirst at the deepest level of our being. This is so apparent when we are dissatisfied with life. Being dissatisfied reveals the moments when our soul is thirsting for God. Maybe you know this feeling. There’s a kind of restless in our bones. Even the glee of the latest UPS delivery is short-lived. We know that this thirst we feel is not relieved by what’s in the mailbox or the long-awaited item delivered to our door. Deep in our hearts we know this is a thirst—a longing—for God. It is an invitation to settle ourselves beside the still waters, to drink deeply as a deer longs for flowing streams.


This is a beautiful image flowing with ancient wisdom. The Psalmist knows that when we are restless, tormented and suffering from monkey-mind (our thoughts are bouncing around and we can’t focus), for example, it is a sign that our soul is longing for God. Psalm 42 carries with it, the holy wisdom that we need time to simply be in the nourishing, watering presence of God so that our distractions, our alarm, our dried-out life can be eased. I know this feeling of being dried out. I recognize it when my prayers suddenly turn into a random series of unfettered thoughts—meaningless and tangled. It’s then that I know I have to return to the riverbank, to the edge of the stream and be quiet again. Or, simply listen to the rain when it comes.


Psalm 42 points us to something that may not be apparent to us at first. And that is… our soul is designed to have constant correspondence with God. We yearn for God whether we are conscious of that or not. It is a comforting, powerful yearning that seeks to connect us with our Creator. As a farmer’s son, my soul yearns as one connected with the earth, with all things living. My soul yearns to be one with the source of my life. It is such an intimate yearning, where even in my suffering, scatteredness, and tears…. I trust in my soul’s connection with God. It is much beyond me and my humble momentary experience of whatever is happening … it is timeless, it is earthy, it is as wonderful as a gentle soaking rain after a long period of dryness. Ahhhhh….


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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