Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Brief Lectionary Psalm Devotional

Well, I have officially survived my first Christmas season as a liturgical music director.  I am exhausted, and quite frustrated at my lack of ability to spend more time writing.  But here's hoping at a bit more consistency.  I'll be taking a break from my "why I converted" series to intersperse it with briefer articles that I can write more quickly.

Every week at choir rehearsal we start by getting our focus oriented spiritually.  We look at the Psalm for the upcoming Sunday, read it together, talk about its meaning, and then sing it.  We've been experimenting with metrical psalmody because its a highly flexible format.  We will likely soon begin chanting as well, to bring a little more tradition to our high-church services.

So each week, I write a brief devotional bringing out a little insight to focus our attention as we practice singing.  Maybe I'll post them consistently every week.  Here is this week's meditation on Psalm 62:

The last verse ends with a theological challenge:  You will render to a man according to his work.  This is, ultimately, bad news.  I don’t want to be rendered to according to my work, because I am a sinner worthy of eternal damnation.  To rightly understand this, however, I think three points are necessary:  First, the Psalmist is not necessarily talking about sins against God, but the sins of men against one another.  Secondly, by asserting trust in God DESPITE the delay of justice in temporal matters, he is asserting that God ultimately is good and just.  We have all noticed how often the wicked prosper.  These are the situations where it is difficult to trust in God when we don’t quite see His justice or our vindication realized presently.  This psalm serves as a tool to build up our trust in God.  By praying it, we are comforted and encouraged to trust in God when life doesn’t make sense.  Lastly, this psalm, like all of them, can be rightly understood as the prayer of Christ.  Christ is rendered to according to His work, and wicked men are rendered to according to theirs.  The good news is, as those baptized into Christ, we are no longer rendered to for the wickedness of our deeds, but we receive freely, as a gift, the rendering that Christ deserves.  That is ultimately why we can trust in God:  He would not ever render unto Christ the final judgement the wicked deserve, and so as baptized believers we can have confidence in eternal blessings.  This serves to demonstrate that God is both supremely just AND merciful, with both these attributes being infinite.  Therefore we rejoice as those who are recipients of His mercy.  This is the rock that we cling to:  God is good.


  1. On of the benefits of using the lectionary as part of the historic liturgy is that one will hear a Psalm, an Old and New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. This gives us a well rounded hearing of God's Word every Sunday.

    The beauty of the Psalms is that many have been put to music at we can sing as well as hear.

    This is one aspect of Lutheran Worship that many do not appreciate, both within and outside of the Lutheran Church.

  2. I don't see why all these "Bible believing" evangelical churches haven't caught on to the beauty of using a lectionary yet. I used the daily office lectionary for years as a Southern Baptist. Lutherans, however, seem to have dropped the ball when it comes to psalms. Many LCMS churches have omitted the psalm from the reading schedule, and the service book doesn't even include them in the lectionary pages. I've been using some metrical psalms which I borrowed from some Reformed Presbyterians and others, but we may soon start exploring other means of reading/singing them: Chant, responsorial, responsive readings, etc... I like to do with metrical psalms what many of the PCA folks are doing with the old hymns: Remake them in creative and contemporary ways that leaves the text intact yet updates the music for modern sensibilities.