Reflection on Psalm 111

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh, 1884.

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh, 1884.

Praise the Lord!
I thank the Lord with all my heart
in the company of those who do right, in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are magnificent;
they are treasured by all who desire them.
God’s deeds are majestic and glorious.
God’s righteousness stands forever.
God is famous for his wondrous works.
The Lord is full of mercy and compassion.
God gives food to those who honor him.
God remembers his covenant forever.
God proclaimed his powerful deeds to his people
and gave them what had belonged to other nations.
God’s handiwork is honesty and justice;
all God’s rules are trustworthy—
they are established always and forever:
they are fulfilled with truth and right doing.
God sent redemption for his people;
God commanded that his covenant last forever.
Holy and awesome is God’s name!
Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins;
sure knowledge is for all who keep God’s laws.
God’s praise lasts forever!
Psalm 111 (CEB)

It’s pretty popular to wonder and question what the importance of the Church is in today’s world. Often, people are thinking about the shrinking attendance, dilapidated buildings, scientific proofs, and seeming disconnectedness from the larger community and culture. While all of these may be true in one way or another, I think this this Psalm highlights one of the most important responsibilities of the Church. This psalm begins with the phrase, “I thank the Lord with all my heart, in the company of those who do right, in the congregation,” and then proceeds to proclaim some of the wonderful works that the Lord has done.

One of the greatest responsibilities of the Church is to proclaim, praise and acknowledge the works of God.

The Church needs to proclaim (with heavy doses of humility, compassion and love) how God has worked in the past, how it sees God working now and prophetically speak God’s work in the future.

What’s unique about this Psalm from many of the other Psalms is the relative vagueness of the recounting of God’s work. Often, other Psalms will retell, quite accurately, the Exodus story or other important stories for Israel’s history. While many of those stories could be echoed here, the Psalm does not explicitly state what it is recounting. This gives the reader some flexibility with the application of the Psalm.

That’s right, I said flexibility with the application of this Psalm. I think we can get a little anxious in the Church when we start talking about flexible interpretation and application of the Scripture. But, I think that’s exactly what this Psalm is asking us to do.

It’s inviting us, inviting the people of God, inviting the Church, to join into the conversation of Scripture. The Bible as a whole recounts how God has worked with people and the world through nearly 3000 years of history. It is the Church’s responsibility to not only retell the story but to enter the conversation and tell new stories and new workings of God within the congregation and to the greater world.

Retelling the old stories is great, we need history and tradition to anchor us. But, the Church also must to be able to tell the new stories of the People of God. Remaining relevant is not so much about programming, lights, smoke machines, modern worship music, or catchy sermon illustrations. We must be able to tell new stories, apply our lives to the conversation in Scripture and open the world’s eyes to how God is living, acting and moving amongst them even now.

As the psalmist writes, “God’s praise lasts forever,”. We need to be able to add our stories to the other 3000+ years of stories and reasons to praise God.

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