Psalms with a flourish

Last week I went on a Biblical Studies Break at Sarum College, Salisbury. Stephen Dawes led four days of study of the book of Psalms.  I love the Old Testament.  I came away with lots to think about God, life, the universe, and so forth.

Here are a few starting points:

  • God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12 and God’s covenant with him.
  • Jesus’ call: “Come and follow me.”
  • The opening words of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery . . .”
  • Jeremiah’s word (or God’s) to the exiles in Jeremiah 29.11: “I know the plans I have for you, plans for your shalom and not for harm.”

The call of God comes first.  Liberation comes before the law.  God’s plan for us is shalom – peace, well-being, flourishing, whole-ness.  That’s a big picture that includes everyone and everything – all flourishing.

So it’s important to take care with relationships and with the whole way I live, so that I am whole-some – nurturing whole-ness and trying not to do harm by objectifying, degrading or using someone or something for my selfish ends at a cost to their flourishing.

Scary stuff.  Using the car because I’ve got to carry something; being irritable with the family because I’m tired and can’t be bothered; letting friendships drift through want of making the effort to stay in touch; wasting money when there are others who need it; eating meat (uh oh) – it’s all anti-shalom.  And because God loves the people hurt by my sin, and because in hurting them I set back the coming of his peaceful kingdom, I hurt God.

On the other hand, some Psalms remind us of the enduring love of God and of his covenant with us.  The covenant survived the exile.  God patiently and persistently calls and liberates a people to follow Jesus and be joined in a new covenant, to be part of a new creation of peace, well-being, flourishing and whole-ness.  God’s mercy is new every morning.  I don’t need to feel guilty, but I do need to respond to his call.  In that way, I can walk in forgiveness and hope and new life.

That’s my big thought right now.  Reconciliation, integrity, the gift of the Spirit, the life of the Spirit making all things new – all of us together.

Here endeth the sermon, here beginneth the lesson.

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