Narrative Lectionary Psalms Week 1
Additional Resources for Study & Proclamation
Psalm 113 (Luke 15:8-10)
God’s Participation in Our Joy
Furthering the Power of God’s Story – Narrative Lectionary Commentary
by Daniel D. Maurer
The Narrative Lectionary, like any lectionary-based list of readings for use in public worship, presents only a tiny subsection of the Bible. Any lectionary demands that specific passages from scripture are to be read in worship, while others are left out. It’s never been a goal in worship to read the whole canon of scripture out loud. I’d argue that such a goal wouldn’t be practically feasible even if we wanted to achieve it.
I only mention this because it’s easy to forget the fact that, in order to give people a gist of the overarching story of God’s work in the world, we need to pick specific passages to read. Within the corpus of scripture from the Narrative Lectionary, which psalms get read and which are left out is no exception.
For this summer’s readings from the psalms, the founders of the Narrative Lectionary wanted to convey the broad scope of the human experience as well as God’s participation in it. As Dr. Kimberly Leetch mentioned in this week’s worship resources for the preaching theme,
Psalm 113 was selected for reading in the Narrative Lectionary to represent ecstatic joy and fervent praise. In fact, Psalm 113 is also known as one of the Hallel psalms. Traditionally, these praise psalms form the liturgical foundation for observant Jews on Jewish high holy days. For example, Psalms 113 and 114 are recited before the Passover meal, and 115 through 118 after.
Learn more about the concept of Hallel from a Jewish perspective in this cool video featuring Rabbi Josh Feigelson of the University of Chicago Divinity School. Link courtesy YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cyqm6tYyQoU)
Quick Jump Menu
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.
Another aspect of Psalm 113 from the standpoint of its inclusion in the Narrative Lectionary is the chosen theme title for this first week of a four-week series looking at the Book of Psalms, “Orientation: God Stoops Down.” As participants in the reading of Psalm 113, the text provides worshipers with examples of God’s great acts throughout history. These acts support the overarching concept that God, too, rejoices in God’s own actions.
Similar to how any particular lectionary must restrict its selection to specific readings, so too Psalm 113 recalls a distinct selection of God’s actions. Here’s a list of them right here.
God (the Lord) is . . .
high above all nations
one whose glory is above the heavens
is seated on high
one who looks far down on the heavens and on earth
Specific verbs describe the action God has chosen to take, such as . . .
raises the poor from the dust
lifts the needy from the ash heap
allows the poor and needy to “sit with the princes” of the people
gives the barren woman a home
makes her (the barren woman) the joyous mother of children
The point that I find absolutely fascinating is that this psalm differs from the standard fare one might expect to receive from scripture about God’s great acts. The locus around which this psalm shows God’s actions as worthy of praise fits neatly into the theme “Orientation: God Stoops Down.”
This dichotomy of high vs. low and motion from “up above” vs. “down here” also plays the role of providing a pivotal, visual conceptualization of God acting from above (“is seated on high”) to bring about God’s ways here (“the dust”, “the ash heap”, fills a “barren” home with the laughter of children).
One ongoing challenge I struggled with when I was serving as a pastor in rural North Dakota was how a particular selection of scripture provided meaning to the people I served. Sometimes, it was easy (or at least a bit more straightforward). Other times, and I suppose especially with a psalm like Psalm 113, a preacher needs to dig deeper to make a connection. Digging through this text and spending a bit more time with it, I can see why the professors at Luther seminary chose this psalm. God participates in the world and moves down from on high to bring up those who before only had ashes or dust. My goodness, even with our language we use the phrase “lift your spirits” to mimic this motion from above.
The possibilities for preaching God’s praiseworthy actions open up quite a bit when you realize that Psalm 113 so plainly shows this movement from on high bringing joy to those who had been low.
Much like a grandfather finds joy in giving a special Christmas gift to his granddaughter, and then watches her bright eyes spring to life as she tears open a gift, God’s experience of joy must be similar. God participates in our joy as both the giver and the receiver. Joy is a gift, and it only comes from the God who created us to experience it in the first place. I believe that God smiles as deeply and as widely as we can. Certainly, the human experience would be a far poorer adventure without this ecstatic joy.
The Servants’ Song, The First Egyptian Hallel, Psalm 113 (Wycliffe Associates 2002)
The Cyber Hymnal with references from the Book of Psalms
Commentary on Psalm 113 by Nancy deClaissé-Walford
Remember to Say Thank You, a Ted Talk by Dr. Laura Trice (VIDEO BELOW)
Kahlil Gibran “On Joy & Sorrow”
Statement, Reformed Church in America: “The Theology & Place of Music in Worship.”
A Good Read
The Egyptian Hallel Psalms
by Win Groseclose
“Psalms 113-118 are known as “Egyptian Hallel” psalms (Hallel simply means “Praise Yahweh!”), thus they were written as praises that were sung in connection with the Passover meal and other Hebrew festivals and reflect upon God’s redemption of his people, particularly from their bondage in Egypt. In the context of the Passover celebration, Psalms 113 and 114 typically would have been sung before the Passover meal and Psalms 115-118 would have been sung afterward. It is most likely these were the psalms that Jesus and his disciples sung after the Last Supper, a Passover meal, before their retirement to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ subsequent arrest (Matthew 26:30). These psalms are designed not only to aid the Hebrews in their worship, but they were also designed with an evangelistic flavor to them. Imagine the impact that these psalms must have had on visitors to Jerusalem during these festival times. You would have streams of people entering into the city singing praises to God for his wondrous works and inviting others to sing along with them. It was meant to be an exciting time—a time that might bring even outsiders to investigate the wonders of this mighty God and the promise of his marvelous Messiah.”
Additional Praise Music/Hymnody/Cool Videos/Kids Message/ETC
Daily Devotional Feed
Free Dramatic Reading For This Text (NRSV)
Readers: Reader, Congregation
Reader: Praise the Lord!
Congregation: Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
Reader: Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
Congregation: From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
Reader: The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
Congregation: Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
Reader: He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
Congregation: He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Reader: Praise the Lord!