and the result…

…so – I’m going to take a little bit of a risk here and post my notes for last night’s preach.  As some of you contributed to it I hope you’ll see your influence shining through!  Seriously, thanks so much for your input…it was immensely valuable.

Basically we approached the Psalm from three angles:

  1. We read the Psalm together (communally) and then had space to read the Psalm individually, using some of the tools of lectio devina to explore the text for ourselves.  Each person has a copy of the Psalm and a pen to make their own notes for later conversation
  2. I spoke (using the notes before) to share how the Psalm had spoken to me
  3. Everyone had a chance to share their thoughts in small groups after the main preach

This all seemed to go pretty well…

If you’re really interested you can hear the preach here…the notes get fleshed out a little…so it may make a little more sense.

Psalm 63
Intro – hatred of poetry at school (ref. Ant) and then discovery of Psalms at crucial point in my journey – linked to Ps 139 in particular – beauty of poetry that expresses all of life’s emotions – not just the tidy goodness of a ‘perfect’ relationship with God – we can inhabit the words of the authors, reading in to them our own situations and gaining great comfort within them

Background notes – Psalm 63 probably inspired by David’s experience during his son Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam 15 esp 23ff)

Verse 1

  • seeking after God – interesting choice of words – especially in a world where perhaps we’ve become a little stationary in our journey – fine balance between ‘sola fide’ and working on our relationship with God – our proper response to the greatness that we encounter in God is to seek him out in ever more deeper ways with deeper expressions of faith (Matt 7v7+8)- disciplines etc. – but awareness that it is God who first inspires us and draws us into relationship with him (Rev 3v20 – behold I stand at the door etc.)
  • Hunger and thirst – importance of imagination/senses in helping us to understand our natural desire and need for God – images used by Jesus – ‘I am the water of life’ ‘I am the bread of life’ – feast on Jesus, find true satisfaction in him
  • dry and weary land – David is on the run – the anointed one, the chosen one has been betrayed by his own son – has he been abandoned by his God?   The ‘dark night of the soul’ (St John of the Cross) – a place of difficulty, of pain, of torment that somehow leads us to spiritual growth – necessary to have a faith that embraces both the positive and negative experiences of life – we all know of them (Jill’s story using Psalm 63)
  • faith is not all experiential highs (mountain tops) that leave us waiting for our next hit – and leave us feeling ‘guilty’ when things aren’t that exciting (although being careful to be sure that it’s not something that we’re doing that’s creating the issue

Verses 2-5

  • at this point David recalls moments from his past when the presence of God was tangible in his life – it was impossible to ignore him – this memory throws him into verse 3 – because of that experience he knows that God is real – even when his present situation would cause him to question this
  • David’s purpose is to live to worship God – a determination to continue in that despite (or because?) of what he’s experiencing
  • Future tense – my soul will be satisfied (lip smacking goodness – ref. Message version – hold that for a moment) – hunger will be satisfied and thirst will be quenched by God’s provision – it’s going to happen – a bold statement in the middle of what he’s going through
  • we’ve all experienced the high point when everything seems to fall into place – sometimes these are moments that will be vital to our future ‘survival’ – so hold on to them!  But don’t be held in thrawl to them (the ‘if only it was like how it used to be’) – although God does encourage us to remember what he has done for us he’s always leading us into the future (come back to this later)

Verses 6-8

  • memory again – in the darkest moment of the darkest experience (Jill’s story once again) David doesn’t appear to be seeking an explanation, but instead relying on his memory of God’s goodness (crucial Jewish narrative…Exodus relived etc./festivals to this day)
  • David acknowledges God’s protection – firm belief that God is looking out for him – whatever the outcome?
  • Perhaps the most honest statement and one we would be familiar with ‘my soul clings to you’ – sometimes clinging on is the only place we can be, the most we can achieve. Fingertip survival that gets us through despite what everything else and everyone else may be telling us.  Clinging isn’t a place we want to stay forever (think of many crucial scenes in films), but it may be enough at this point, and what God is asking of us in this situation

Verses 9-11

  • vindication will come – the kings enemies will be butchered – remember – the Psalms are very human…the deepest desire of David’s heart at this point is not mercy, but revenge.  In many experiences our response would be (is) the same.  But perhaps just the fact that David has clung on to his God is enough ‘revenge’ – he hasn’t abandoned his God and hasn’t been abandoned by his God.
  • We have to remember that forgiveness isn’t necessarily about us being vindicated as ‘right’ and our enemies as ‘wrong’.  It is a step beyond that – we’re called to forgive our enemies, to turn our cheeks and expect the next blow.  No response. No revenge.  God is at work.  His is the judgement.  We’re not the agents of retribution however much we may want to be.  Let’s remember that. This is one point where clinging on isn’t good for you – perhaps you need to let go?  Freedom lies beyond.

Major points

  • the dark night of the soul is an important place not to run away from – what is happening within this experience?  What is God saying to me?  Where is God?
    • the answer may not be obvious, it may not come until much later, if ever at all – but it’s key to be asking the questions
  • sometimes we have to ‘seek’ God out into the dark, in the places lacking water and food we have to hunt for it.
    • We have to get of our spiritual backsides and walk towards him rather than expecting him to do all the hard work
  • clinging on is an important skill to remember – and at times all that God wants from us
    • it is our expression that we believe that God is our saviour, that he is at work, that we may not have the answer, but that we believe we will emerge from this places

– a warning – don’t allow yourself to be stuck on former glories – God is good and has done many good things for us.  These can sometimes keep us going.  But have an eye on the future. Isaiah 43v18+19

Ministry points

  • do we need to embrace the dark night?
  • is there seeking to be done?
  • do we need help to cling on?
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