Integrating the Psalms in St. Andrew’s life
Philippians 1:27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of
Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about
you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side
with one Mind for the faith of the gospel.”
Karon and I want to address the following question based on
Philippians 1: How do we as St. Andrew’s believers in the risen Christ
stand firm in one spirit and strive side by side? How can we share
hope with those who stand on empty ground?
We were part of the Monday class that studied Dietrich’s
Bonhoeffer’s book “Life Together.” The second chapter is called “The
Day With Others,” and in it, Bonhoeffer devotes a section to the
Often we treat the psalms as just something read between the two
other Bible readings on Sunday mornings. But Bonhoeffer makes
several points about the Psalms:
Based on the New Testament, the psalms can speak to us as
individuals but also be used to teach and admonish one another.
Bonhoeffer pointed out that Jesus’ prayer book would have been the
Psalms – Bonhoeffer wrote: “Jesus prayed the Psalter and now it has
become his prayer for all time. … Jesus Christ prays through the
Psalter in his congregation. His congregation prays too, … This
prayer belongs, not to the individual member, but to the whole Body
of Christ.”
Bonhoeffer points that there are easy and difficult psalms. We tend to
ignore the difficult ones, but they too are the prayers of Christ and of
the church. They are important for the body of Christ.
One of my favorite old books is called, “Good Lord, Where Are You?” –
Prayers for the 20th century based on the Psalms.
The title of the book comes from this Paraphrase on Psalm 102:
“Good Lord, where are you?
If you really do exist,
Why don’t you come out of hiding
And do something about this creature in distress.”
My good college friend Ellen (I’m using a pseudonym) gave me the book in
my senior year with this inscription: To my friend, Karon, at Christmastide
68. I hope the thoughts in this book strengthen your faith as they have
mine. In the Christ child, Ellen.
Ellen and I were kindred spirits – both theater majors who barely tolerated
the real drama queens. We compared notes on unrequited love and our
dysfunctional families and our angst about what the world held out for us
after graduation.
We are still friends although for many years we lost touch. One day in
Missouri a letter came from her – it had been sent to Oregon. Even though
it was several years past the U.S. Post Office time to forward letters, the
U.S. post office eventually found me in Missouri. She had fled from her
abusive husband, who had burned her address book so she couldn’t
contact her friends. Finally, she found my address from years before. So I
hold our friendship in high regard – and it was Ellen who opened up the
Psalms to me.
So as we were preparing for today, I found my coffee-stained and fallingapart book and read some of the Psalm paraphrases I had underlined with
remarks in the margins. My margin comments confirmed for me that the
Psalms are both individual prayers and prayers for the community of Christ.
For example:
Paraphrase on Psalm 4
Dear God, respond to Your servant in distress:
Make room in Your loving grace for a disciple in despair;
Listen to the agonizing cries of a child who is depressed and unhappy.”
I had written in the margin: Prayer for Ellen – she was going through a
tough time.
And next to this paraphrase on Psalm 27, I had written, “Be patient, Karon.”
“Take courage, step out in faith, in scorn of consequences.
Let God have His Way with you.”
Bonhoeffer says that we learn three things from praying the psalms.
He said:
“1) We learn what prayer means. …
2) We learn from the prayer of the psalms what we should pray. …
And 3) The psalms teach us to pray as a fellowship. The Body of
Christ is praying, and as an individual one acknowledges that his
prayer is only a minute fragment of the whole prayer of the Church…
the Psalms lift us above our personal concerns and allow us to pray
All of us at that Monday night session were struck with this passage
-- What does this mean for us as a community at St. Andrew’s?
In our church, sitting next to us, someone may be mourning the loss of a
child or a loved one. Pray with them:
Ps. 28: “To you, O Lord, I call;
My rock, do not refuse to hear me,
For if you are silent to me,
I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.”
Ps. 30: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
So that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
In our church, sitting next to us, someone may be suffering from illness or
praying for someone else suffering illness. Pray with them:
Ps. 30:
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
In their illness you heal all their infirmities.
In our church, sitting next to us, someone is realizing that they are no
longer young but are getting older – and with it the challenges of an aging
body and mind. Pray with them:
Ps. 71: 17-20
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
And I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come …
You, who have made me see many troubles and calamities, will revive
me again.
In our church, sitting next to us, someone may be feeling depressed –
losing sleep as they struggle with family issues or work issues or school
issues. Pray with them:
Ps. 38
Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me;
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation.
Ps. 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills –
From where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep …
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
Your going out and your coming in
From this time on and forevermore.
Indeed, this is a challenge to our congregation. Can we actually “pray” the
psalms rather than just “read” the psalms as some poetry between the
other Bible readings?
How can we use the psalms to build up our life together – to connect to the
New Testament and our Lord who gave his only son for our salvation?
Ps. 32:
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
Because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
Even as we hope in you. Amen

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