Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Praying the Psalms: A Sermon for Benedictine Living Community

A prayer of lament for the MN flooding
A.Hanson, St Peter 2014
 (A sermon preached at the Benedictine Living Community on June 19, 2014) 

For our homily today, I am going to try something a little different.  One of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of the Psalms.  There are many types of psalms.  There are psalms of praise, psalms of lament, psalms that are hymns or prayers.  The psalms give us words when sometimes we struggle to find those words on our own.  I am going to read a few psalms today and after each psalm I will offer a brief reflection and then give you an opportunity to reflect silently. 

I. Psalm 23 (a psalm of praise)

This is a very familiar psalm to most of us.  I will read it very slowly and have you think about the first time that you remember hearing it, or if there is a specific place that you associate with this psalm.  (read psalm 23)  I grew up in Bozeman, MT and attended Hope Lutheran church.  This was a very old building with stained glass windows that lined the south side of the sanctuary.  My family always sat in the back of the congregation, next to a window that depicted Jesus with a shepherd's crook with a flock of sheep surrounding him.  Whenever I heard this psalm, I am taken back to my childhood congregation.  I remember the comfort that I felt in that community of faith.  I remember how I felt cared for.  I remember that the people of Hope Lutheran church reflected God's love just as a shepherd cared for his sheep.  Who has cared for you?  Who has shown gentle love to you like the Lord cares for the smallest lamb? 

II.              Psalm 51:1-12 (a psalm of confession)
Portions of this psalm will be recognizable as part of the prayer of confession that we often pray together at the beginning of worship services.  I will read this psalm aloud, as a sort of communal confession of sins.  We will have a few moments of silence in which you can talk to God.  To confess the the ways that you need forgiveness.  (after a few moments of silence) 
As a baptized member of the Body of Christ, I declare to you that all your sins are forgiven, those sins that are known and unknown, in the name of the Father +, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

III.            Psalm 13 (A psalm of lament)
I find sometimes that it is very difficult to make a lament to God, or to cry out for help in the midst of trouble.  The psalms give us words when it seems like we do not know how to pray.  They also show us that God wants to hear our pleas for help.  I am going to read Psalm 13.  In the moments that follow, feel free to pray all the laments that you want to share with God. Are you in pain?  Are you grieving?  Do you feel lost?  Then I will close us in prayer. 

Gracious God, we know that you are present with us even in our darkest hours.  We know that you want to hear our laments just as you want to hear our praise.  We can cry out honestly with our pain and our needs and we know that you hear us.  I ask that your Spirit continue to be present with your beloved sons and daughters here at the Benedictine Community.  Let them know that they are loved and cared for and remembered as being created in your image.  We ask that you receive all our prayers and grant us your sustaining love.  Amen.

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