Year A – Epiphany 1 – Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,*
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Summary— Just as our minister calls us, each Sunday, to worship with angels and archangels, so may we call those angels and archangels to worship.  This psalm opens in the Throne Room with just such a call: the psalmist, energized by what is about to come, summons the heavenly beings to ascribe glory to God (v.1 and 2).  We do the same in the Doxology, when we sing, “Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.”  The scene now shifts to an awesomely tempestuous ocean, and the roaring thunder is nothing less than the voice of Yahweh (v.3).  That thundering voice in the storm sweeps inland, breaking down cedars (v.5), making all that is impressive to man bow down to Him.  Yahweh’s lightning flashes forth (v.7), shaking the wilderness (v.8) and stripping the forest bare (v.9).  All in His temple joyfully reel at the earth-shaking surge of power and in exhilarated awe shout “Glory!” (v.9).  The storm then passes over, and the people—in the wonder of the calm—look up between the dissipating clouds to see Yahweh enthroned serenely over the situation, as He sends the trailing end of His storm toward the horizon (v.10).  May He give the strength of that storm and the peace that follows it to us (v.11)!

Insight— Last summer, my kids and I got stuck under a park pavilion during the most ear-splitting and torrential storm I’ve ever experienced.  Lightning was striking all around us with incredible frequency, apparently a stone’s throw away, while water rose on the concrete slab where I stood holding one child in each arm.  With each strike of lightning and immediate peal of thunder, I’d yell out above the torrent, “What does thunder say!?” and the kids would yell back, “God is awesome!”  It’s a special memory.  I understand that not everybody likes storms, but at the risk of pushing my preference onto you (mainly because it’s the psalmist’s preference) you really should learn to like them, too, if you don’t already.  They’re awesome.  Don’t worry—Yahweh’s throne is over them, and it’s His voice that thunders in them.  It’s His voice that roars in the clash of wave and rock on the jetty just before the storm rolls inland.  Don’t miss God’s self-disclosure in nature: storms say something about Him—so do trees, flowers, mountains, canyons, snowflakes, raindrops.  As we traverse this valley of longing between glory and greater glory, where faith is not yet sight, we cherish the tokens of glory which God graciously gives to stir our longing and hint at its fulfillment.  So joyfully reel at His earth-shaking surges of power and in exhilarated awe shout, “Glory!”

Child Catechism—
Q: What does thunder say?
A: God is awesome!

Discussion—What are some other events or objects of God’s world which reveal Him?  What do they say?

Prayer—Yahweh, You are glorious and strong and we fall down before the splendor of Your holiness.  You are the God of glory and Your voice is powerful and full of majesty, thundering over the mighty waters.  As your voice breaks down cedars and flashes forth flames of fire and shakes the wilderness, we in Your temple say, “Glory!”  You sit enthroned over the flood as king forever.  Give us strength and bless us with the peace of Christ through whom we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

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Year A – Christmas Day – Psalm 98

Psalm 98O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.  His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.  2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.  4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. 8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (NRSV).

Summary:  If your life had a soundtrack, what would some of the songs be?  In our home, our daughter is the one most likely to spontaneously break into a song.  That is the how this psalm comes across, as a bursting forth in praise, towards God and his mighty ways.  God’s justice, mercy, and truth are praised just within the first three verses; but then the psalmist evokes the images of nature and nations, which also display the Lord’s awesomeness. This Psalm also points us to God’s victory in bringing about His redemptive plan through Christ. Just as so many prophetic books speak of God coming to a renewed Zion and bringing about justice and mercy, so we find the fulfillment of these in the birth of Christ and His redemptive work and the ongoing work of His body, the Church. This Psalm forms the basis of Isaac Watts well known Him, “Joy to the World” in which Christ comes to “make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” That is justice and mercy.

Insight:   People can act in all kinds of strange ways when in front of a police officer, even when those people have done nothing wrong.  Other times, it can be a comfort to see law enforcement walking around a community or sporting event.  God’s justice has a similar effect.  We react to God’s justice in many strange ways. Of course we would like to see an appropriate level of fairness around the world; But at the same time we have silly views about the treatment of others and ourselves.  Moreover, it can be difficult to explain God’s just ways before our fellow men.  We may speak of God’s comforting love and mercy, but accordingly this Psalm reminds us that God is just and that his justice should be a comfort as well.

Child Catechism:  How does God judge the world?  God judges the world with righteousness and fairness.

Discussion:  What are some of God’s victories in your life?  What are some of the ways that God showed his steadfast love and mercy toward Israel in the Old Testament?

Just and Merciful Father,  we thank you for all of your provisions–seen and unseen,  put a joyful noise not only in our hearts but in our mouths,  proclaiming your steadfast love to all we encounter!   In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West

Year A – Advent 2 – Psalm 72

Solomon’s Reign is a Type of the Universal Reign of Jesus

Give the king your judgments, O God, And your righteousness to the king’s Son.  He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.  The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.  He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor.  They shall fear you as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.  He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth.  In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, Until the moon is no more. . . . Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!  And blessed be His glorious name forever!  And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen.

Summary – This messianic Psalm, Psalm 72,  looks to Solomon in the near future as a type of the Ultimate “King’s Son” (vs 1).  This Son will judge people righteously, and we recall the story of Solomon and the two women arguing over the child (1 Kings 3:16ff).  This Son will have dominion “from sea to sea” (vs 8), and Solomon indeed ruled all the land from the “River” to the sea (1 Kings 4:20ff), the allotted portion of Israel.  This Son would receive gifts from the “Kings of Sheba” (vs 10), and the “gold of Sheba will be given to him” (vs 15).  We remember the Queen of Sheba’s visit of course, in which she gave Solomon 120 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:10).  Solomon was however, as a typological shadow of Christ who was to come, an imperfect fulfillment of this Psalm.  Only Christ could be feared “as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations” (vs 5).  Only Christ’s Kingdom can encompass the whole earth (vs. 8) and have “all kings” bow before Him (vs 11).  Only Christ could save “souls” (vs 13).  The final refrain of the Psalm in vss. 18-19 indeed points to the Lord alone as the doer of “wondrous things.”  Solomon was the second step in the line of David’s throne and kingship.  But we see here again, like we saw in Psalm 122 last week, that David’s throne came with an inherent aspect of longevity and eternality.  Christ the true Son of David is the ultimate fulfillment of that great line.

Insight – Do you ever feel like the world is ignoring God?  People try to take the meaning of Christmas away, and ignore Jesus’ coming, but King David tells us about the “king’s Son” who is expected.  This son of the King will become king and will be followed forever.  He was promised to be like rain that waters the earth, and would bring righteousness and peace.  As we look forward to Christmas, this promise about Jesus’ coming should give us great hope!  Jesus is “living water” (John 4:10) who “waters” those who have faith in Him, and the night of His birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).  Though many people ignore the true King Jesus, His kingdom is everlasting and will finally submit all nations to it.

Child Catechism – How long will Jesus’ kingdom last?  Forever.

Discussion – How does Jesus “bring justice to the poor of the people”?  How does He “save the children of the needy”?

Prayer – O God of Israel, who only does wondrous things, blessed be your glorious name forever.  This Advent season we earnestly pray that the whole earth be filled with your glory.  Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Psalm 122

A Song of Ascents.  Of David.  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem–built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you!  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”  For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Summary – The Songs of Ascent (Pss. 120-134) were festal songs used by Israel as they “ascended” to Jerusalem for holidays, sacrifices, etc.  As the third in this set, Ps 122 follows sort of a “local progression.”  In Ps 120, the speaker/singer speaks of sojourning “in Meshech” (a warring tribe) and dwelling among “Kedar” (a pagan Ishmaelite tribe), “among those who hate peace.”  The singer begins singing the Songs of Ascent among warlike peoples, and heads towards Jerusalem (Heb. “Foundation of Peace).  In Ps 121, the singer “lifts up his eyes to the hills.”  Jerusalem is among the hills (Ps 125:2), and so the singer is looking towards his destination.  In our Psalm, 122, the singer has arrived in Jerusalem.  He was “glad” at the prospect of going up (vs 1), and is now standing within the walls (vs 2).  Prayer for the peace of that central city is a large part of the Psalm as well, with the purpose being maintaining the glorious state of the “house of the LORD” (vs 9) which resided in Jerusalem.

Insight – If you have read the Lord of the Rings, you know that Minas Tirith expected the return of their true King, the heir of Isildur.  Their kings were all descendants of their first king in Middle Earth, Elendil, though their power was less by the time of their last king, Earnur.  Finally, Aragorn, the heir arrived and began his kingdom.  As Advent season begins, our sights are set on the coming of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.  In this Psalm, we read about the capitol of His Kingdom, Jerusalem, where “thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David” (vs 5).  Though there was a great span of time between the last King of Israel and Christ, Christ is the Heir of David who arrived and began His kingdom by disarming the previous rulers.  This week, be thankful for Christ’s throne, from which He shall reign forever and ever.

Child Catechism – Which king was Jesus descended from?  King David.

Discussion – What does the peace of Jerusalem mean in the New Covenant?  How can you seek the peace of Jerusalem?

Prayer – Our Lord and King, we give thanks to your name for bringing us within your gates and adopting us as your children.  We pray for peace among your people as we consider the coming of the Prince of Peace, for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and also for the sake of the whole house of the Lord.  Help us to strive for the peace of our heavenly city, that the nations would see its light and come to it.  Through Christ, Amen.

Year B – Epiphany 4 – Psalm 111

Psalm 111 – Praise the Lord!  I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. 3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. 8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

Summary – From A to Z, our Psalmist has no difficulty finding reasons why we should praise the Creator.  Each poetic line begins with and then runs through an acrostic of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Our Lord deserves whole-hearted praise and thanks simply because he is who he is:  the Creator of the universe.  His great works certainly include the making and sustaining of this amazing universe; but this Psalm focuses on his redemptive works as an example of God’s upstanding and mighty character.

Insight – Whether as a community or together as a family, each of us should strive for a personal and genuine worship of God.  Connecting our hearts with praise seems only natural.  This Psalm connects worship with wisdom as well.  Biblical wisdom is not so much about how knowledgeable you are, but how well you make decisions.  One key skill when making decisions is what the Army calls situational awareness, understanding where you are.  Each one of us are a part of God’s covenant people.  Each one of us are connected to the stories found in Church history and the Bible.  And each of us have our own stories to tell.  This Psalmist says that as we reflect on all these stories, and share the great things God has done with one another, we will better understand the Lord and how he operates.  And together with his Spirit, we will find a new found respect for our Lord God.  This kind of the fear of God will not only improve our decision making in life, it will improve our worship as well.

Child Catechism – What is the beginning of wisdom?   The Fear of the Lord.

Discussion – How does wisdom help us make better choices in life? How could the fear of the Lord give us wisdom for better choices?

Prayer –  Father, we are so thankful for who you are and what you do we hold fast to your promises give us wisdom to make good choices and to glorify and honor your awesome name in all that we do we praise you in Spirit and True with our whole hearts and minds may we study your ways in the power of your Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus.  Amen.

Contributed by Malcolm West

Year B – Epiphany 3 – Psalm 62:5-12

5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah  9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. 11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.  For you repay to all  according to their work.

Summary –  David is confidently expressing his heart felt trust and dependency on the Lord, while encouraging us to do the same.  Indeed, God is our only reliable source of protection in this world.  He alone is fully committed to us.  And he alone has the power to effectively defend us.  God’s active defense has the strength of a mighty fortress.  Everyone and everything else are described as but a single, passing and thoughtless breath of air in comparison.

Insight – Having a silent soul like David does not mean the lack of noisy struggles, it simply means the lack of noisy souls.  Neither does a silent soul stop praying; Instead we are confident in the one who hears those prayers that we speak.  You should always be pouring out your heart before him (v8).  That is, we should always bring our honest and utmost concerns before;  but we should do this because we are already trusting in God.  If our hearts are set elsewhere, relying on worthless and false hopes, we will continue to be disappointed, restless and anxious.

Child Catechism – Who do we rely on for all of our needs?   The Lord God.

Discussion – Have you ever been disappointed? What are some false hopes we rely on?

Prayer – Father, you alone care and protect your people,

      You  alone silence our souls.

      You alone are our hope.

   Give us a confidence and a boldness that could only be from you,

          in the power of your Spirit,

         and in the name of your Son,

   Amen.

Contributed by Malcolm West

Year A – Lent 5 – Psalm 130

Psalms 130: A Song of Ascents. 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Summary -Psalm 130 is a song of Ascents which were sung by those journeying to worship in Jerusalem to celebrate annual festivals. The Psalmist cries out to the Lord, recognizing that no one can stand on their own righteousness in God’s presence. But He is rich in forgiveness. So the Psalmist waits for the Lord. Israel is to hope in the Lord because God will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

Insight – The Psalms teach us the full range of prayer, praise and even complaints that we may properly express to God, not only individually, but corporately. In Psalm 130 we have a call for God’s presence along with a recognition of our unworthiness (“If You should mark iniquities . . .”). We are sinners and saints at the same time. We have no inherent righteousness whereby we can demand a Holy God’s presence and power in our lives. He forgives and now we see the full basis for that forgiveness through Christ’s death and resurrection. Despite our natural unworthiness, it is right and good that we still call upon Him to be present. We should be those whose “souls wait for the Lord.” We need a thirst for God that is just as eager as those in the dark night of battle who await for new light and safety in the morning. The promise is that “with the Lord there is mercy” and “abundant redemption.” Do you believe this? Israel shall be redeemed and this will come through resurrection (see Ez. 37) which breaks into the cosmos through Christ. Easter is on its way!

Child’s Catechism – What does God do for His people? He forgives their sins.

Discussion – Do you sense God’s abundant presence in your life now or are you awaiting more of His presence like the Psalmist?

Prayer – O Lord, we ask boldly for Your presence in our lives. Forgive our many sins, fill us with Your Spirit, and redeem us as we trust You and hope in Your redemption, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Lent 1 – Psalm 32

First Sunday in Lent
Psalm 32:
Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *  and whose sin is put away! Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, *  and in whose spirit there is no guile! While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *  because of my groaning all day long. For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *  my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *  and did not conceal my guilt.I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” *  Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *  when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. You are my hiding-place;you preserve me from trouble; *  you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *  I will guide you with my eye. Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *  who must be fitted with bit and bridle,  or else they will not stay near you. “Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *  but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; *  shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Summary – Like Psalm 51 which is perhaps better known, Psalm 32 records David’s confession of sin. In this text David makes clear that when we confess our sins and our transgressions against God’s law, God restores us through this His forgiveness. This Psalm extols God’s forgiveness. Happy is the man to whom the Lord does not impute guilt. This precious truth of God’s forgiveness finds its way into the book of Romans written by St. Paul. Romans 4:6–8 – “Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Paul explains the basis of this free forgiveness is ultimately the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Insight – Have you ever led a horse by the bit? Living in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, it’s very common to see an Amish buggy driver controlling horse at a stoplight with the bit and bridle. Sometimes the horse is at ease, but often it looks like the horse is striving against the driver’s control. David makes this point about us. Do not be like one that has to be controlled by external circumstances – A bit and bridle. We are to be those people who confess our sins freely, receive forgiveness freely, and are controlled inwardly by a motivation to do what is truly good. This can only happen by the power of God’s Spirit working within us. We are to be those who freely face our own transgressions. We sometimes fear honestly facing our failures and sinful actions, but only in this do we find the greatest of mercies. “While I held my tongue, my bones withered away”   . . . “Then I acknowledged my sin to you . . . Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.”

Child catechism – What kind of person is happy and blessed? The kind of person that freely confesses their sins to God.

Discussion – When someone is honest with you about their failings, how do you usually respond to them?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you for your infinite mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that we, being always sinful, may more freely acknowledge our own sinfulness so that we may receive your mercy by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit God forever, Amen.