Preparing for Worship – Heather Mustain.
I’ve been feeling pretty down lately; and by lately I mean the last 18 months or so. To be fair, I know I’m not alone in that, and without intentionality it can be hard to find a lot worth celebrating these days. So much of my role at the church requires me to tune into the world’s happenings, whether that be listening for the latest projections of COVID-19 surges and peaks or discovering ways to respond to the many human crises in our city, state, nation and world. It’s not all bad, of course — it helps keep me aware, whereas my natural tendency would be to take advantage of the privilege to tune it all out. However, most days, it also leaves me fighting to find hope, life and rest.
I’m in the middle of teaching a three-week series on Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms. In this short, yet provocative exposé on the Psalms, Brueggemann introduces a helpful schema of interpretation. He makes the case that the Psalms can be understood in three distinct categories: psalms of orientation, disorientation and new orientation. Today’s call to worship from Psalm 19 is what Brueggemann would classify as a psalm of orientation. These psalms theologically function to praise and thank God for a well-ordered world. Psalms of orientation leave little to no room for chaos, and we see that as the psalmist describes the law of the Lord as perfect, sure, right. Orderly. All is well.
These psalms function as what Brueggemann calls “sacred canopies,” assurances that such a canopy of certainty exists despite the incongruities of life. These types of psalms are world-making; their use informs us of a world that may not be, but is to come. They are eschatological in nature, providing to us the hope we find ourselves fighting to find.
Athanasius of Alexandria, a bishop in the early third century, describes the psalms by saying that “while most of Scripture speaks to us, the psalms speak for us.” And today I find myself needing the psalmist to speak for me, holding the hope I’m fighting to find, creating a canopy of sacredness and certainty that I long for.
As we prepare for worship this morning, may we all find the hope, life and rest we need, whether we can speak it with our own words or need a little help from the psalmist.