Sunday, September 08, 2013

Psalm 139

This morning during family worship at St Peter’s we looked at Psalm 139:


O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; •

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.


You mark out my journeys and my resting place •

and are acquainted with all my ways.


For there is not a word on my tongue, •

but you, O Lord, know it altogether.


You encompass me behind and before •

and lay your hand upon me.


Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, •

so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go then from your spirit? •

Or where can I flee from your presence?


If I climb up to heaven, you are there; •

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.


If I take the wings of the morning •

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,


Even there your hand shall lead me, •

your right hand hold me fast.


If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me •

and the light around me turn to night’


Even darkness is no darkness with you;

the night is as clear as the day; •

darkness and light to you are both alike.


For you yourself created my inmost parts; •

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; •

marvellous are your works, my soul knows well.


My frame was not hidden from you, •

when I was made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.


Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; •

already in your book were all my members written,


As day by day they were fashioned •

when as yet there was none of them.


How deep are your counsels to me, O God! •

How great is the sum of them!


If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, •

and at the end, I am still in your presence.


O that you would slay the wicked, O God, •

that the bloodthirsty might depart from me!


They speak against you with wicked intent; •

your enemies take up your name for evil.


Do I not oppose those, O Lord, who oppose you? •

Do I not abhor those who rise up against you?


I hate them with a perfect hatred; •

they have become my own enemies also.


Search me out, O God, and know my heart; •

try me and examine my thoughts.


See if there is any way of wickedness in me •

and lead me in the way everlasting.

When family gets together, we don’t all do everything together. It is more dynamic than that: we might gather around the table together, but at certain points there are smaller groups in the kitchen, the living room, the garden; or, if we go out for a walk, some who go on ahead while others take a slower pace.

Why should it be different when family gathers to worship?

Today, we set out five different ways in which people could take 10 minutes to respond to the Psalm, all of which could be carried out into the week ahead as ways to explore the Psalm, and allow it to explore us…

1 Highs and lows
“If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.” Sometimes we feel on top of the world. Other times, we feel as if we are merely existing, not living at all. Both are normal human experiences. God wants to share in our highs, celebrating with us, and our lows, comforting us. We can share the highs and lows of our day, or week, with the people we live with or meet up with on a regular basis.

2 Labyrinth
This Psalm has a theme of journeying with God. For some people, the best thing they could do this morning was take ten minutes out to walk the labyrinth in the prayer garden, alone in conversation with God, or sharing that time with a close friend. The rain took a break and the sun shone! The garden is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Sundays after our morning service.

3 A box of potential parables
Some of us need more than words. Jesus took objects – yeast, a pearl – as insights: the kingdom of heaven is a bit like…Glimpses, not theological tomes! I put together a box of objects that might connect with different aspects of Palm 139 – a pair of binoculars; a walking guidebook; a tin of postcards; a torch; some knitting; a woven friendship band; a glass jar of coloured sand, worked into a picture by a master craftsman; the bag of murder weapons from a game of Cluedo; a decorated stone in the shape of a heart – as prompts. Note: this is not for children as opposed to adults, but for people of any age who might find such an approach helpful. What might the kingdom of heaven look like in Psalm 139?

4 Praying for our enemies
There is a section in this Psalm that speaks of enemies. When it is read in church, these verses are often left out – after all, they aren’t very Christian! But in the context of this Psalm, these words undo us: they confront us with the truth that God made our enemies with as much love and care and hopes and dreams and ongoing enfolding as he made us. The best response some of us could make to this Psalm today was to gather at the War Memorial and pray for Syria.

5 Prayer boats
There is a great image in this Psalm of journeying even to the far side of the sea. As everyone arrived, they were given the Psalm printed out on a sheet of paper. Some of us – children, and adults with learning difficulties included – folded our Psalm into an origami boat. Then we shared the places we would be going to in the week ahead, and prayed for one another. The boats were taken home, to be put in a place we will see them every day this week, as a reminder that God goes with us.

With thanks to Steve Taylor, whose playful and thoughtful practice inspires me whenever I play with creative ways to help people engage with and respond to Scripture.

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