Grace to you, and peace, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What a joy it was to be surrounded by the Psalms last Sunday. The Psalter was and is not only the hymnbook of the Hebrew people, but a deep well of liturgy and devotion for us today. The Psalms express the full range of human emotion before God – awe and wonder, despair and pain, resilient hope and bracing honesty. In the psalms we can soar into the heavens – “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” – or descend into the pit – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” They lay out for us the living memory of God’s graciousness in the past -“I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old” – and the full hope of God’s coming future – “May the LORD give you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
The joy of the day was only magnified by the presence of the combined adult choirs and the brass ensemble for both services, who were able to capture all the emotions conveyed by the psalms and direct them in worship to God. Thanks to all whose leadership inspires our worship.
We remembered on Sunday how important the psalms are to the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition. In the earliest days of the Reformation, the psalms were the central expression of worship, and they remain important in our self-identity. They help us remember the past, even as they point us toward God’s future.
I hope those of you who are members and regular guests in our worship are making plans to be with us on March 13 at 6:00 p.m. for the first of several events throughout 2011 helping us commemorate our bicentennial as a congregation. It will be a time of hearing about the book the congregation is invited to read for Lent, “SoulFeast,” by Marjorie Thompson, as well as sharing in smaller groups. In addition, we will spend a portion of the time remembering and taking note of our rich history and dreaming together about our future. The memories and dreams gleaned from this and future gatherings will help the session as it evaluates our mission statement and program focus as we anticipate the next decade of ministry in this place.
It would be easy for a congregation like ours – blessed with abundant resources, continued growth, and vibrant worship and programs – to rest on the success previous generations achieved. In doing so, we are tempted to forget that the church’s traditions are living traditions, forged out of each generation’s discernment of God’s call. It remains the task of each generation of faith to listen for God’s call afresh. As Presbyterians, we believe that call is most clearly articulated when all voices have a place at the table; God’s voice is heard as we listen to each other’s memories and dreams. I pray your voice will be heard at the table on March 13.
Like the psalmist, we gather strength from our rich history and tradition even as we listen together for God’s call to the future, captured most profoundly in the 23rd Psalm – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”