St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Thursday, June 11
By: Grayson Hanchey (10 years old)
Psalm 147 (New Revised Standard Version): Praise for God’s Care for Jerusalem
This psalm is a celebration. It’s like 3 verses of a hymn where the community of Jerusalem (Israel) praise God. There are 3 parts of the psalm, where each part calls people to praise God (verses 1, 7, 12), and then verses that follow explaining why (the reasons) we should praise God. Each part shares something that shows God’s greatness.
Let me break it down for you. I have separated the 3 parts of the psalm and written each verse as well as how I understand it.
Part 1 (147:1-6) Praise the Lord – Because the Lord delivers the oppressed
1 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
We should be full of praise for God and we should show it.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He built up the walls and restored the city and brought people back to their homeland.
3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Our Lord does not cast the hurting aside, but He brings them up and heals them in body, mind and spirit.
4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
God is great, for He knows every star, galaxy, and constellation by name just like He knows every one of us.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
God is great, for He has power and knowledge beyond human imagination.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
The LORD shows pity on the weak, and lifts them up. The wicked who passed them over shall be cast aside.
Part 2 (147:7-11) – Praise the Lord – Because the Lord provides for the faithful
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre (harp).
We should give thanks to our God with praises, songs, instruments and from a full heart.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.
Our Lord sends rain as part of His blessing to the Earth and people so crops can grow.
9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
Some cannot provide for themselves, so they wait on God and get their food. God feeds the animals and the people. He feeds those that need protecting.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
No matter how great and strong a person or animal might be, God prefers those who are humble and those who truly believe in Him.
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
God is glad and happy with the people that worship him, however simple, poor, and unknown they may be.
Part 3 (147:12-20) – Praise the Lord – Because the Lord especially protects Israel
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
We should praise God as a united group of people and as a whole church of believers.
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.
This probably refers to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, and God’s protection of the children of God. God protects us and strengthens us.
14 He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.
God brings peace throughout the land and to people, to those who are chosen and follow Him.
15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
God commands nature and nature follows Him, so God’s power covers the whole Earth.
16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.
He covers the earth with snow, so it looks blanketed in wool. He scatters the hail and frost easily.
17 He hurls down hail like crumbs—who can stand before his cold?
No one can withstand the hail that God drives forth because it is too powerful.
18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
God commands, or He speaks, just as He sends the wind, the snow and the rain.
19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
His commands, His words, and His promises are what God gives to His people as His laws.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the Lord!
In the Old Testament, God did not give any of this to any other nation because Israel was the chosen nation and truly believed.
This psalm speaks about praising God, because there are many reasons to praise Him and because He showed His power to the people of Israel. He is so far above human understanding that our way to show Him our love is to praise Him. Do not forget to praise Him with your whole heart and spirit!
The 2 verses that mean a lot to me are Psalm 147:4-5 … He determines the number of the stars. He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.
It reminds me of my Grappa, my mom’s dad. He is an astronomer, and he taught me how to use a telescope to look at the stars and find planets and distant galaxies. He is also an astrophotographer, which means that he takes pictures of stars and galaxies using his telescopes and computers. He and I have taken pictures together and looked for stars and galaxies. We even discovered the star in one of the attached images that wasn’t listed on the star maps! It was a remnant of a supernova explosion that happened before the Psalms were ever written. To us, this star was new. However, Psalm 147:4 makes me think that you will never find a “new” star because it is already known by God. It reminds me of how GREAT God is! He has power and knowledge beyond human understanding (Psalm 147:5), and the creation that God made is infinite and amazing! I have included some pictures that my Grappa has taken so you can see and feel God’s greatness. This also makes me think about the astronauts that recently went on the SpaceX Dragon Rocket to the International Space Station. They have a front row seat to God’s greatness. I bet it’s an awesome view! If I was up there, I would sure praise God!
June 2, 2020
What do you do when life falls apart?
Psalms 3 from The Message translation
1-2 Look! Enemies past counting!
Enemies sprouting like mushrooms,
Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery:
“Hah! No help for him from God!”
3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides;
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain.
5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep.
Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady,
Fearless before the enemy mobs
Coming at me from all sides.
7 Up, God! My God, help me!
Slap their faces,
First this cheek, then the other,
Your fist hard in their teeth!
8 Real help comes from God.
Your blessing clothes your people!
King David wrote Psalms 3 while fleeing Jerusalem. His own son, Absalom planned to take over his kingdom and have his father killed. You can read more of the back story in 2 Samuel 15-18, but Absalom’s clever approach made him able to subvert and divide David’s kingdom without saying any specific thing that could condemn him. Israel dropped their support of their greatest King (David) and instead allowed a wicked, amoral man to rule over them. David went from being very rich and powerful to running for his life.
When you read the words of the scripture and know the backstory of what has happened to David, you can understand the frustration of the words he writes. He really must have felt that enemies were all around, for they were even from within his own family.
We are not immune from enemies either. Sometimes our enemies are other people who have chosen to turn against us or whom we have mistreated. Other times, our enemies are things beyond our control: a lost job, a terrible diagnosis, the end of an important relationship. And often, at the very time that we find ourselves surrounded by “enemies”, we discover more and more “enemies” on our journey. At times, it can appear that everyone and everything is against us. Sometimes, we lose hope and believe that there is no hope for us, that things will never get better.
Hopefully, when we find ourselves “with enemies sprouting like mushrooms”, we will do as David did and will practice Selah (a pause or a rest). David asked for God’s help and then rested as he waited again for the enemy. When we feel surrounded on all sides, we too must call out for God and then take a holy Selah. God created rest as an essential human need and never more so than when we are facing battles of grief, pain, loneliness or sickness.
Let us remember to rest and then to get up, know that we are God’s children, and continue on in our journey to love others as God has loved us first and to help others battle their enemies as well.
Easter Sunday, April 12th
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
I’m writing these words today in the dark. I say that partially because I tend to get up early to tackle my writing projects. However, this seems most appropriate for this devotion, because Easter begins in the dark, or so the Gospel writers tell us. Additionally, as I write today there are still so many questions about how our current crisis is going to end. There are promising hopes for a cure; there are also optimistic projections of the flattening of the curve model that health authorities have used to chart the process of the pandemic. This flattening might be signaling a recession in the number of cases of infected people. Yet, we remain uncertain. We’re in the dark.
That statement does seem to resonate with Easter. If we are honest with ourselves, there are so many confusing things about it. For starters, the resurrection accounts of the four gospels vary in detail. In one account there are several women who go to the tomb; in another there are two women; and in yet another, just Mary Magdalene. Some of the gospels report two angels at the tomb; others report one angel. And then there are other differences as to conversations, etc. How do we arrive at Easter when we are still in the dark about so much? Well, we begin, as all the gospel writers began, with the resurrection. They wrote because Jesus was risen from the dead. That’s what created this genre of literature called Gospel.
Today’s passage of Scripture is the shortest of the stories of the resurrection and ends rather abruptly… so much so, in fact, that it is surmised that some early writer took the Gospel and added a dozen more verses (9-20) so that Mark’s account would conclude in a manner more similar to the other Gospel accounts. I point this out, because I personally believe that the abrupt ending was intentional in the mind of Mark’s original author, and that the extra verses were from someone else. My reasoning is that: (a) the added verses are not found in any of the most ancient manuscripts; and (b) the language of the 9-20 section seems more cliché, unlike the lucid prose of the rest of the Gospel. So the question for this Easter story is “Why did Mark’s account end so suddenly?”
Let me share three vignettes in hopes of answering that question.
(1) Attending the USC School of Cinematic Arts one can’t help but discover that one of its celebrated graduates is Will Ferrell, that off-the-wall comedian. USC is proud of Mr. Ferrell, even to the extent of bestowing on him an honorary doctorate. Now, Ferrell is best known for his many comedic roles including Elf and Talladega Nights, among others. However, the screenplay that we studied when I was there was Stranger than Fiction, a serious piece in which Ferrell gives a thoughtful performance. The story is about an IRS accountant who discovers that his life is being directed by an author who is writing a novel. This accountant, who hears the author’s voice, learns that this author always kills off her main subject. Thus, the movie proceeds with the ominous portent of an approaching death. Ferrell’s character gets a copy of the manuscript and reads of his impending demise. The death scene is eloquently written, but the author has stopped, infected by the writer’s dreaded nemesis, writer’s block, unable to finish. Meanwhile, after reading her story, his story, and after much contemplation, Ferrell’s character connects with the author and encourages her to go ahead and finish, because it is wonderful. Ironically enough, the author is then inspired to finish by creating a unique ending, actually reminiscent of an Easter-type experience. Could it be that Easter is waiting to be completed by our own stories?
(2) Several years ago, one of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion shows centered around a teenager by the name of Jimmy Beeler. It seems that Jimmy went to St. Paul one cold and wintry night to stand in line to buy tickets for a rock concert by a group named “Mammoth.” As he was standing in line his mother, Mavis, was fretting back home at Lake Woebegone. She had gone to bed but couldn’t sleep, because she was so worried about Jimmy, her youngest, standing out in the cold in St. Paul. Mavis picked up her favorite magazine, The Home and Hearth, which contained several interesting articles; but one article in particular, about the evils of rock music, sent chills up and down her spine. As she brooded over the article and her son’s life, Mavis’ emotional state took a nose-dive when she noted that one of the article’s examples was the rock group, Mammoth. The next morning Jimmy came home, looking tired and worn out, but also triumphantly clutching two tickets in his upraised hand. He grabbed a bite to eat and then went to collapse in his bed. Keillor ended the story with Mrs. Beeler hovering over her sleeping son and the tickets, those tickets that were so precious to him, wondering whether she ought to tear them up to protect him from the evils of rock music. Keillor left the story there, without disclosing what she decided. As he signed off with his customary, “And that’s the news in Lake Woebegone where all the women are strong, all the men good-looking, and all the children are above average,” you could hear the groans of the audience. A couple of weeks later Keillor reported that many people had written angry letters saying he had no right to leave a story unresolved like that and in so doing, leave them hanging.
To be honest, there is a part of me that can appreciate people writing those kinds of letters . . . I’m a person who likes to have my stories wrapped up; I don’t like it when I am left dangling, with “to be continued.” But maybe that is the intent of Mark’s Gospel, that we are called to finish the story ourselves. Karl Barth, the renowned theologian, said “People come to church on Easter and wonder, ‘Is it true?'” It is our job to answer that question, not in words so much, but in deeds. Mark intends for us to complete the resurrection.
(3) A final example comes to mind in N.T. Wright’s beautiful book Simply Christian, where he creates an imaginary story of an accidental discovery of an unknown work by Mozart. A collector rummaging around in a dusty attic in a small Austrian town comes across a faded manuscript written for the piano. He can tell by just looking at it that it favors Mozart, so he takes it to a dealer. After numerous puzzled consultations, phone calls and examinations, the conclusion is that this truly is a previously unknown work by the great composer. However, the piece seems incomplete. There are long pauses where the piano seems to be simply marking time. Gradually it dawns on the musical experts – this was meant to be a duet. The blank spaces were to be played by an oboe, cello, violin, or another instrument. A further search of the attic reveals no additional sheets of music, and the discoverers must accept that the brilliance of it all cannot be experienced until someone fills in the blanks of accompaniment.
Easter is the same way. Mark has written a masterpiece, but it can’t be experienced unless we play our parts.
A Time of Reflection and Prayer
- Read the scriptural text aloud in the manner of the lectio divina (divine reading) discipline, letting the words’ sounds guide you to meditative reflection. What image particularly stands out to you? Where would you find yourself if you been present in the story of the resurrection? Why?
- How do you share the significance of the resurrection in the way you live day by day? Listen for God’s illuminating voice to guide you.
- Where do we need to “practice resurrection”, continuing the story in our community? Let the Spirit direct you to ways to make this happen.
A Poetic Guide for Prayer: Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
There’s not a lot of peace in our modern, daily lives. Pressures abound. Cell phones ringing. Email pinging. Obligations tugging at our shirttails. Maybe that’s why I so look forward to the worship hour at Woodland each Sunday.
Daniel chimes the hour, and I begin to feel at peace.
I hear the sound of the choir from the narthex, and the feeling of peace continues.
Randy leads the congregation in our opening hymn, and the peace expands throughout the sanctuary.
Mike and Lance bring our prayer, and we speak to God in peace.
Lois plays the offertory, and I’m reminded of the peace we receive through the giving of our tithes and offerings.
Lisa is surrounded by an ever-growing group of children, and I’m at peace for the future of the Church.
Garrett brings the message, and I’m challenged to understand and accept the Peace that God has provided to all of us through the gift of His Son.
Behold the gift of Peace that we celebrate this season. May we rejoice in the Peace that God provides us through Christmas; and allow this Peace to follow us throughout the coming year.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”