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  • Overcome (by) Grief May 8, 2018 It has been twelve years, but it seems like yesterday. Lona’s scream pierced my soul. We knew all day that something was not right. No one had heard from her Dad that day. He was on location in Sacramento, CA running another construction project. His twin brother called him every day to check in. This day there was no answer. Uncle Rowlyn called all the sisters to see if they had heard from him. They ...
  • Overcome (by) Depression May 3, 2018 Have you ever felt like you just don’t want to get out of bed…ever? There is a dark cloud floating right behind your eyes that makes everything seem distant and slightly unreal. Your logical mind tells you that the sun is shining and that everything in your life is actually pretty good, but the voice seems hollow and muffled. Heaviness, and even dread, is all you can feel in your bones. This is what depression feels ...
  • The Abundance of Creation | A Meditation on Psalm 104 January 16, 2018 God is about abundance, not scarcity. That is one of the key theological ideas that runs through our study of John’s Gospel. It came through clearly in the text from last weekend, John 2:1-11, where Jesus takes ordinary water and transforms it into extraordinary wine. Not only did Jesus rescue the host of the party from shame and scarcity, he lavished the best wine on the family to the point of overflowing. Each day during our ...
  • The Power of Forgiveness September 25, 2017 Our CORE series continues this week with the topic of FORGIVENESS. The key texts are Psalm 51:1-12 and John 20:19-23. King David wrote the Psalm after he had been busted by the prophet Nathan for his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Would you be willing to forgive a man who used his power to seduce a woman, get her pregnant, then have her husband killed to cover it up? David was broken ...
  • A Sermon on Emotions from the Good Life Series July 21, 2017 This sermon is part of our summer worship series: The Good Life. We explore how to process emotions in the church. All of our emotions are a good gift from God. We need to have a safe space to process them as we carry each other’s burdens and do life together. Key texts: Psalm 142:1-3, 1 John 4:18-19, Matthew 11:28-30 View the PowerPoint I did not write a manuscript for this sermon. I simply drew this mindmap and ...
  • Complaining to God July 11, 2017 Our Good Life Series brings us to the topic of Emotions this week. Emotions in church? Maybe the Pentecostals are into that, but this is a Lutheran church full of people descended from Scandanavians. It’s more like the first church of Vulcan than a place where emotions are acceptable, right? How can we preach about emotions when the acceptable form of conversation in the white, middle-class, suburban church is “hey, how’s it going?” “Good. How are ...
  • The God Dream: A Declaration of Interdependence June 30, 2017 We prepare to celebrate our Independence Day here in the United States. This is always an interesting weekend for a preacher. First, you wonder who will actually come to worship, especially since this will be our first really summerish weekend of the season. Second, you wonder how to honor the U.S. Holiday without conflating it with the Gospel. We continue our summer series on The Good Life this weekend with the theme of Community. What is ...
  • Suffering, Community, and the Left Hand of God June 27, 2017 Why do good people die in the prime of their life and others suffer pain beyond measure? I pose this question today because the last week has offered a startling contrast of experiences for me. Our sermon topic for last week was The Good Life: Beauty. I preached about how God’s beauty is freely given in all of creation. It was a positive, feel-good sermon. In the midst of contemplating beauty, our community at Easter was shocked ...
  • I Need Your Help to Preach on Family June 9, 2017 Next week I will preach on the Family as part of our summer series: The Good Life. This is a vast topic, and a controversial and/or painful one for many. What is a family? Is there a ‘Biblical model’ for the family? What do I do if my family is toxic? What if I don’t have a family? I would love your help in preparing for this sermon. I’d love to hear about your experience with ...
  • Poetry, Art, Love and Hatred December 28, 2016 Several collections of words and images converged on me this morning. I try to pay attention when this happens and see what God is trying to say through the connections. I will spell out the sequence, highlight some key points, and then invite you to see what connections emerge for you. #1 Richard Rohr’s Meditation on Suffering for Love. “As Jesus put it, “Cut off from the vine, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The “vine and ...
  • Love, Tears, Bono, and Eugene Peterson April 30, 2016 I’m not sure why I wept as I watched this video. Perhaps it is because I preached the funeral of a 19-year old young man yesterday and my heart is torn open and I’m raw. Perhaps it is because I just said goodbye to my 21-year old daughter who visited for the funeral and I won’t see her again until July. Perhaps it is because I see my father in Eugene Peterson. Perhaps it is ...
  • Praise the Lord | A Sermon on Psalm 146 July 11, 2015 listen to audio CLICK HERE. Narrative Lectionary text: Psalm 146 I didn’t write a manuscript for this sermon. Here are Powerpoint Notes. this is the image:
  • Whom Shall I Fear? | A Sermon on Psalm 27 July 11, 2015 Listen to the audio CLICK HERE Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 27:1-6 When my daughter Micki was 7 or 8 years old we were swimming at a friends house one Sunday afternoon. Lona and I were standing in the shallow end, watching as the kids were doing back flips off the edge of the pool into the deep end. Over and over they would flip themselves backwards, do a spin, and land in the water. Micki pushed off for another ...
  • A Doodle for Psalms | Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation July 5, 2015 Today we finish up our series on the Psalms by asking the question: Why do we praise God…really? Throughout this series we have used Walter Brueggemann’s idea that the Psalms take us through a process of orientation, disorientation, reorientation. As I read Psalm 146 for today’s sermon, and saw the list of God’s actions, and the people for whom God is concerned, it sparked this doodle. Why do you praise God?
  • A Psalm for Today June 28, 2015 Psalm 118:24
  • Praise the Lord! | A Sermon on Psalm 113 June 10, 2015 Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 113 listen to sermon audio: CLICK HERE I want to begin with a little experiment. I’m not sure if you all know something. So, I’m going to sing a phrase, and if you know what to do and say next, then I want you to do it. OK? Here we go Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah… Let’s do this. This side will be the hallelujahs and this side will be the praise ye the Lords. Hallelu, ...
  • Taste and See | A Reflection on Psalm 34 June 4, 2015 One of the five Psalms for today (see reading plan) is Psalm 34. David wrote this psalm after a battle with Abimilech. David knew his fair share of pain and suffering. Some of it was unjustly done to him, some was the result of his own foolish choices. Either way, suffering is no fun. There are two things that struck me about the Psalm: First, David invites us to taste the Lord. I love that image because it ...
  • A Month of Psalms for Daily Bible Reading June 1, 2015 There are 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. There are at least 30 days in a month (except February, of course). The Psalms are divided into five separate books. Read five psalms per day, skipping by 30, and you will read all the psalms in one month. Combine all of these facts and you get a clever way to read through the Psalms in one month. Scroll to the bottom to watch a video ...
  • Gearing Up for Summer Worship Series at Grace May 28, 2015 Pastor Mark, Jonathan, and I met yesterday to plan out the summer worship and preaching schedule. I’m looking forward to it. Here’s a little preview: May 30/31 – July 4/5 The Heart’s Cry: Experiencing the Psalms (visit page) If I were doing this as a children’s series I might use the cast of characters from Pixar’s new movie Inside Out to represent the Psalms. Each character represents a basic human emotion: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust. The ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | Why So Downcast? March 23, 2015 Monday, March 23. Psalm 43:1-5. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the bad news in the world? It seems that you can’t turn on the news and hear about people who want to hurt other people because of religious and/or political beliefs. There is violence and terror everywhere. Maybe you don’t have to turn on the TV to find the bad news. Maybe you are struggling against someone or something who is threatening your life, health, or ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | If You’re Feeling Overwhelmed… March 16, 2015 Monday, March 16. Psalm 43:1-5. I’ll keep it really short today. If you ever feel like you are overwhelmed in life, or that there are bad people or bad circumstances mounting up against you, then Psalm is for you. Read it slowly. Be mindful of every word. What is the writer’s situation? What did he do about it? Where did it leave him? My prayer for you today is that you can find the peace that this ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | A Royal Wedding March 9, 2015 Monday, March 9. Psalm 45:1-17. Each Monday we read a Psalm that is somehow connected to the reading from Matthew of the previous Sunday. Yesterday the text for the week was Matthew 22:1-14 and was the parable of a King who invited people to attend the wedding feast. Psalm 45 is a lavish song about a royal wedding. Kings, palaces, horses, golden robes; this all sounds like fairy tales to us. It is very difficult for the ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | God’s Got This March 2, 2015 Monday, March 2. Psalm 16:1-11. The big story for this week is found in Matthew 20:1-16. It is the parable of the Landowner who hires workers throughout the day to work in his field. At the end of the day he pays them all the same wage. The point of that parable is that God cares for all people. The workers were people who would go to the marketplace each day and hope to be hired. They ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | Carried and Covered February 23, 2015 Monday, February 23, 2015. Psalm 32:1-2. Imagine that all your sin–all the envy, bitterness, hatred, fear, gossip, selfishness–is like a heavy, stinky, nasty coat that you’ve been wearing that makes you want to throw up it is so bad. Yet, it has been your only piece of clothing you have, so you wear it. That would be an awful existence, wouldn’t it? Now imagine that someone comes along and takes that coat from you and throws it ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | In My Weakness February 16, 2015 Monday, February 16. Psalm 41:1-10. This is a big week in the life of the church. In two days we will observe Ash Wednesday and begin the forty-day journey of Lent. This is a time when we are reminded that “from dust we came and from dust we will return.” It is a time of humility and repentance. But, then, yesterday we saw the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, when, for a moment, he shined like the sun ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | Deeply Rooted January 26, 2015 Monday January 26. Psalm 1:1-3 Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time in a certain place, or with a certain person, you find yourself talking and acting like the people from that place? This happens to my family all the time. We love the Chronicles of Narnia stories, so we were so excited when they started making them into movies. Every time we watch one of those movies we all find ourselves ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | Don’t Push It January 19, 2015 Monday, January 19. Psalm 91:9-12 Our main text for this whole week is Matthew 4:1-17. Jesus has been in the desert, fasting for forty days. He’s famished. Then Satan comes after him with three temptations. The reading for today has to do with the second temptation. Satan quotes Psalm 91:9-12 as part of his second temptation. He says to Jesus, “If you really are the Son of God, then throw yourself down from this tower.” The ...
  • Monday Bible Reading | I Love This Kid! January 12, 2015 Monday, Psalm 2:7-8, Psalm Our main text for this week is Matthew 3:1-17. When Jesus comes up out of the waters of baptism, the voice of God says, “This is my son. I love this kid!” (OK, that’s my translation, but I think it’s accurate) This is a quote from Psalm 2. The Psalm, however, is talking about the King of Israel, not necessarily a prophecy of the coming Messiah. In other words, Matthew is showing us ...
  • Psalm 11 for 9/11 September 11, 2011 Many times when I feel cluttered in my mind I will grab the Bible and read the Psalm for the day. Today is the 11th, so I read Psalm 11. It is also the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Look what I read… 1 In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, 2 for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to ...
  • Week 24 Day 1 – the Psalms continued June 14, 2010 This week the reading schedule takes you through Psalms 28-67. We still don’t have any daily food for thought. However, here is a great place to read the text online. go to bible.logos.com
  • Week 23 Day 1 – Beginning the Psalms June 7, 2010 It is week 23 of the VibbleSpace Read through the Bible in a Year plan. Wow. I have no idea if anyone is reading these posts or not. If you are, then I have to apologize in advance for the next couple weeks. There won’t be much in the line of “food for thought” coming from me. I need to give a little background. These posts were originally written back in 2003-2004 when our house church–Hart ...
  • A Message on Psalm 131 August 19, 2009 This is the manuscript for a message delivered at Good Shepherd Covenant Church on August 16th, 2009. Good morning.  I was so honored when Pastor Hollis invited me to come share with you today.  I met him through my Dad, Jim Thomason, who used to be the pastor at Meadow Creek.  He’s been  here with you before.    It was great to meet Pastor Hollis.  It turns out that we have some things in common.  He lived in Las Vegas and ...

Narrative Lectionary Commentary for Summer 2017

View Rolf Jacobson’s commentaries here.

Introduction to Psalms

Music plays an incredibly important part in all of our lives.  Have you ever noticed how the sound of a certain type of music can illicit an emotional response inside of you?  When circus music plays you can start to feel light on your feet.  When intense organ music starts you may conjure up images of the Phantom of the Opera.  When the Rocky theme song, or the Star Wars theme song starts you may be suddenly filled with a sense of victory and power. Take a moment to think about what your music is? What pumps you up? What mellows you out? What makes you feel romantic, nostalgic, or courageous?

Why is this?  Music reaches deep into our soul.  It moves past the logic center of our mind – that part that keeps our emotions in check and desires to rationally explain the universe – into the place of deep emotion.  In this place words cannot describe the experience of life.  I believe God designed us to be effected by music in this way because He knew that it is absolutely impossible for us to fully understand God with our rational mind.  We can’t fit the infinite into the finite space between our ears.  Yet, we can reach beyond ourselves into the realm of the infinite through the vehicle of music, poetry, and the arts.

That is why the book of Psalms is in the Bible.  The Psalms takes all the Law and history that we have been reading for the past several months and says, “so what?”  Where do I go with this information?

Where we go is directly into the heart of God.  What makes the songs in this book so powerful is that they are written in direct address to God, much like a love song is written from one lover to another.

The Psalms are wonderful because they plunge the depths of human emotion and they are not afraid to be completely honest with God.  If the writer is elated, he waxes eloquently about the glory and majesty and beauty of God.  If the writer is angry with God, he tells Him so.  If the writer is in deep depression, he wallows in his self-pity for God and the world to see.

Here is the key for you and the Psalms.  Let your hair down with them.  Read the Psalms out loud until you find one that matches your emotional state that day.  When you find one you can relate to, read it again and read it as if it were coming from your own heart.  Then, start writing your own.  Pour your heart out to God.  Let Him know how you feel and don’t be afraid of what He or anyone else will think.  You’ll be surprised how cathartic an honest “Psalm encounter” with God can be to your soul.  Don’t feel limited to words when expressing yourself to God. You may feel like writing music, drawing a picture, making a collage, cooking a dinner, whatever is an authentic expression of how you feel towards God, do that thing. Remember, God invites you to enter His presence and love Him with your whole self, pain and all.  He has promised that He will meet you where you are and help you carry your burdens.

Five Books in One

There are actually five books of Psalms within the book itself. Each book comes from a different place historically in the nation of Israel as well as from a different place theologically.

Book 1: 1-41 mostly written by David. Songs of Worship. These Psalms are very personal, from the heart of David. They come from earlier in his life when he was young and passionate. They can be used well for personal reflection and time with God.

Book 2: 42-72 mostly written by David and Korah. Hymns of National Interest. These hymns come from David’s heart as he focuses more on the nation as a whole and God’s relationship with the collective group. These can be used well when leading others into a place of worship.

Book 3: 73-89 mostly written by Asaph. Hymns of National Interest. These Psalms are much like those of book two, but they come primarily from Asaph, the chief musician and worship leader of the nation.

Book 4: 90-106 Author unknown. Anthems of Praise. Books 1-3 can tend to focus in on personal pain, misery, sin, and a call to God for mercy or justice. Books 4-5 are more focused on direct praise to God. They are designed to be used in collective worship to encourage the people and to offer sacrifices of praise to God.

Book 5: 107-150 mostly written by David or unknown. Anthems of Praise. Among these praise Psalms there are a collection of short songs called “Songs of Ascent.” These are like marching tunes that the people would sing as the climbed the hill to where the temple stood. They are songs of gathering and focusing. They can be a good way to start off a worship service as the people gather to focus their attention on God.

Asaph

 

If you pay attention to the fine print in the Psalms, especially the author, you will notice two things. First of all, most of the Psalms were written by David. He must have been a passionate and dynamic leader. He could fight with best of them, but he could also wax eloquently and authentically about the deep emotions he continually wrestled. As you read, though, you will discover a second thing. In book three of the Psalms a new author comes on the scene: Asaph. Who is this guy and why did he have so many hit singles on the Israel charts?

Read these two passages to refresh your memory.

1Chronicles 16:5-6 Asaph was the chief, Zechariah second, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.

1 Chronicles 25:1 David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service:

Asaph was the musician that David appointed to lead the “ministry of prophesying” through song. As a worship leader his job was extremely important. He kept the people focused on the nature of God while engaging their senses and emotion with music. We can learn a lot from Asaph.

I have one observation about his Psalms in contrast to David’s Psalms. When David writes it is almost always from the first person. They are an intimate cry to God from one man, for himself. Asaph’s Psalms are different. Most of his Psalms are an appeal to God on behalf of the whole nation. He rarely speaks of his own heart. This is a lesson for leaders. We must first begin with our own heart and be authentic before God, but there comes a time when it is a necessity for the spiritual leaders of the community to call the entire community into a place of worship and focus on God. We must seek his face together and collectively repent and open ourselves fully to His Kingdom.

Pilgrimage

The following note flows from Psalm 84. vv. 5-7,

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,

they make it a place of springs;

the autumn rains also cover it with pools. b

7 They go from strength to strength,

till each appears before God in Zion.

let’s look at each verse separately.

v.5. Blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a discipline that people have followed for centuries where they take a literal from where they live and travel to the temple in Jerusalem. As they travel they examine their life and seek to be purified in the presence of God.

Life is a pilgrimage. Every day we journey, the question is whether or not we have set the trajectory of our lives in the right direction. Journeys are long and can take many twists and turns.

v. 6 speaks to one unique quality of the pilgrimage towards the heart of God. The Psalmist says that the Valley of Baca becomes a place of springs. Another way to say this would be, “When we journey towards God he can turn dry places into life-giving springs of water.” (cf Isaiah 43:19) The beautiful thing about God is that He always, when we are willing to accept it, can show us that even in difficult, “dry” times in our lives, He can turn those experiences into life-giving lessons. Many times the difficult journey itself turns out to be the time that God was fully present. The desert becomes the temple!

v.7 is the ultimate goal of the journey. First, the pilgrim moves from “strength to strength.” This signifies that there is an upward progression in the journey towards God. He gives us victories that build confidence. From this confidence come new victories.

As we grow and develop we become stronger until we reach our final destination. Each one of us will appear before the Lord. Here is the beauty of the pilgrimage. We are in the presence of God throughout the journey as His Spirit indwells us, but one day, at that glorious wedding, we will be in His full presence, standing without shame in His glory.

May we journey well together. May we see the desert valleys burst forth with water. May we grow strong and be filled with the confidence of knowing God.

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