Bible, Bookmarks, and Palm BranchEach year as Lent approaches I encourage my congregations to undertake a Lenten discipline as a way of becoming invested in the drama of this season that leads us to commemorating the central event of the Christian faith: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This year instead of throwing it all on them to come up with something (giving up chocolate is perennial favorite, but I always wonder how much that helps a person’s life of faith), I made a commitment myself and invited others to join me. The commitment I made was to read through three different books of the Bible in the course of the 40 days of Lent, and to comment on each day’s reading on a blog. This year it was the book of Genesis, the Gospel according to Matthew, and the book of Psalms. I suggested picking one, and produced bookmarks for each book, with a list that divided them into 40 readings each. Choosing the Psalms was the most ambitious option, at an average of 67 verses a day, so I assumed that most folks would choose the shorter readings. But to my surprise I ran out of psalm bookmarks well before the others.

Here’s how I introduced the book of Psalms on the blog:

Keep in mind as you make your way through the psalms this Lent that these are prayers to God written by people.  There will be some parts of some psalms that you will find disturbing, especially when the psalmist calls on God to avenge a wrong or to destroy his enemies.  What we learn from this is that nothing is off limits when we pray to God.  We are allowed to express our pain, our frustration, and even our anger in prayer.  But at the same time Christians read and pray the psalms in the light of Jesus’ teaching, so when it comes to our enemies we remember that he calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

More often, though, the psalms express a deep trust and hope in God.  Psalm 1 compares being rooted in God’s “torah” (see note) — paying attention to God’s good intention for our lives — to well-irrigated plants with deep roots.  Those who ignore the “torah” (the wicked in Ps. 1, the nations in Ps. 2, enemies in Ps. 5) are rootless, and doomed to perish.  As Christians, we believe that rooting in God is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, God’s Word and Holy Sacraments.

The blog is still up at here. Note that most entries are found in the archive.

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