Narrative Lectionary Psalms Week 4

Additional Resources for Study & Proclamation

Psalm 40:1-10 (Luke 17:11-19)

Faith: Starting & End Point to God

Relativity , by MC Escher.  © The MC Escher Company.

Relativity, by MC Escher. © The MC Escher Company.

Furthering the Power of God’s Story – Narrative Lectionary Commentary

by Daniel D. Maurer

In this four-week summer series, four different psalms have served as cornerstones for a foundation upon which the Narrative Lectionary has built a structure. Keeping with my metaphor of a building, it functioned as the overarching message we wish to convey as preachers, a dwelling in which we invite our worshipers to reside.

Certainly you could argue that any such structure intended to encompass the vast array and thematic diversity in the Book of Psalms is inadequate at best and contrived or misleading at worst. However, I do not believe it was the intention of the architects of the Narrative Lectionary to simply provide a sampling of psalms to serve as a representation for the whole book in the Bible — sort of like a “best of” album from this past year’s most popular musicians.

Instead, the summer series for the Psalms from the Narrative Lectionary fulfills a role in laying out the larger narrative and the interplay between God and God’s people. Although Psalms as a collection in the Bible contains writings structurally distinct from the prose or the history in other sections, thematically the topics present themselves as a microcosm of the broader message from holy scripture.

For our final installment of this series, Psalm 40 is as appropriate a choice as it is representative of this week’s theme from the Narrative Lectionary. “Reorientation, Part II: A New Song” is what it says it is: the second installment of a two-part reorientation.

If last week’s theme from Psalm 27 (“Reorientation, Part I: My Light and My Salvation”) provided a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, then this week’s is the arrival at that light as well as a celebratory song we are invited to participate in.

But, enough mixing together of these metaphors! What further insights can preachers reap from this text?

Dr. Kimberly Leetch has already provided preachers with a good starting point by showing that “faith is a practice of awareness of what God has done, and the interpretation of our life’s experiences in light of God’s faithfulness” (NL Worship Resources, July 7, 2019).

What’s more, she shares her insight that a person’s faith functions as a springboard from which God sends each into the world to live out God’s loving purpose.

Quick Jump Menu

  1. Historical Exegetical Resources

  2. Contemporary Resources / Quotes / Books / Other

  3. Video Resources

  4. NL Daily Devotional For This Week

  5. Free Dramatic Reading of the Narrative Lectionary Text

The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. For more free worship resources & planning materials, please visit RCL Worship Resources, a sister-site of Clergy Stuff.

Faith is a delicate expression of experiences and interpretations of our experiences that we have collected over a lifetime. When things go well, we learn what works. When things go badly, we learn who we can rely on, and how we can find strength despite challenges.

Because faith is built upon our experiences, those experiences will only become meaningful if we first become aware of the things around us, and second, make meaning of it all.

The psalmist first notices that the Lord has been faithful, “he drew me up from the desolate pit...and set my feet upon a rock.” His awareness of the Lord’s hand in redeeming events helps him assign meaning to his suffering and then deliverance.
— Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff Founder

Given that any reorientation requires a person to lift their head, look around, assess what the current environment is, and then take an action, so too does Psalm 40 provide a similar set of actions. The psalm’s literary structure itself functions an equivalent movement from one point to the next – the psalmist bids we first find our position again in relation to our surroundings before we set out. Finally, this psalm reaffirms which direction leads forward and provides a direction to proceed into in the future.

Let’s take a moment and look how the NRSV divided the psalm into four different sections. (The oldest surviving copy of the Masoretic text for this psalm does not contain different sections; they have been added in later to the English translation as a thematic and liturgical interpolation.) These four sections begin with four different verses, namely 1, 4, 6, and 9.

Verse 1: I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Verse 4: Happy are those
who make the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.

Verse 6: Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.

Verse 9: I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.

Despite the NRSV’s horrid use of the word “see” (when the old RSV’s translation “behold” was not only more appropriate, but also more poetic — I know I digress, but I had to get this pet peeve in a published form somehow) we can see a clear thematic trajectory. Look specifically at the psalmist’s choice of verbs (and a few adjectives) and it will become clear.

I waited . . . he inclined and heard.
וַיִּ שְׁ מַ ע וַיֵּט קִ וִּ יתִ י

Happy are those . . . who do not turn to the proud (the false-god worshipers)
מִ בְ טַ 

Sacrifice . . . you do not desire . . . given me an open ear.
חָ פַ צְ ת

I have told . . . I have not restrained . . . as you know.

What’s obvious is the psalmist lays out all the actions he or she has taken, but more importantly informs us of God’s response. The final verse highlights God’s steadfast love as God’s ultimate response always for us today and tomorrow. What we see is a movement both to, but also from, the standpoint of faith. God’s interaction with the people in this sense is a never-ending circuit — a perfect sphere — that God invites all of creation to live in.

————-

I believe preachers have an opportunity using this psalm’s structure as template. Preaching itself has always been an activity exemplifying the movement from disorientation to reorientation. Proclaiming the good news only works when we understand the “bad news,” viz. the interpretation that any sane individual will come to about our very existence from purely a rational standpoint: that life has no meaning and we are ultimately alone, every one of us. Faith, then, is the launching point any human being eventually must circle back to, reassess, and remind ourselves and each other of God’s purpose. Finally, it spells out what actions God provides for each of us to live out our new identity as God’s children.


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Historical Exegetical Resources

Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus companion to the historical study of Christian texts. (Rutgers University)

"The Ten Lepers," Luke 17:11-19, Martin Luther, c. 1525.

Commentary on the Psalms, John Calvin 1509-1564

Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871)

Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 28, 1882


Contemporary Resources

“In the Pit” A Service on waiting by LeRoy G. Christoffels

In the Pits with a King, by John Piper

Commentary on Psalm 40 by Nancy deClaisse-Walford

 
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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
— Helen Keller
Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together.
— Linda Thompson
Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
— Maya Angelou
 

A Good Read

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Psalm 40: A 30-day Devotional on Despair, Deliverance, and the Joy of Singing a New Song

by Kyle Burkholder

(Amazon Link here.)

As was the case for millions of other people, I first stumbled over Psalm 40 thanks to U2, the legendary rock and roll band. As the closing track on U2’s 1983 album entitled War, “40” capped a work marked by loss and lament with a hopeful note of longing. And while “40” may have closed an album (and many incredible concerts after that), the song was actually a profound opening as well. For so many, “40” was an invitation to the Christian Scriptures, a reintroduction to what were previously seen as the antiquated and staid pages of the Bible. With U2 providing a new melody by which to read them, suddenly the psalms were rippling with the very elements of life, coursing with an existential pulse that underscored an undeniable relevance in modernity. An anthemic lyric that had been sung by millions was rooted firmly in the 3rd verse of the 40th Psalm.

I will sing, sing a new song. Psalm 40 is a psalm of King David. Having been delivered from some great danger, David rhapsodizes about God’s grace and the admiration that, as a result, fills his soul. The middle of the psalm takes on the righteous militancy of a protest march, with David rejecting mere sacrifices and pledging a life that would proclaim God’s goodness at every turn. Ultimately, Psalm 40 rests on the active work of God, looking back with thanksgiving and forward with blessed anticipation. Lifted out of the pit of despair, David is able to walk into a secure future with the harmony of heaven itself on his lips.


Video Resources

TED Talk

 

Additional Praise Music

Psalms 40 by New Song Awesome song
 

Daily Devotional Feed

 

Free Dramatic Reading For This Text (NRSV)

Readers: Reader, Congregation

Reader: I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Congregation: He drew me up from the desolate pit,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.

Reader: He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.

Congregation: Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Reader: Happy are those who make
    the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after false gods.

Congregation: You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you.

Reader: Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
    they would be more than can be counted.

Congregation: Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
    but you have given me an open ear.

Reader: Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.

Congregation: Then I said, “Here I am;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me.

Reader: I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

Congregation: I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.

Reader: I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

Congregation: I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.