Thursday, April 9, 2009

The View From The Pulpit

Every day I discover new and exciting things in my Psalms study--I run across verses and passages that speak to me in an entirely new way! In this Beth Moore study, she spends two days per psalm...and at the end of the second day, she asks you to write the psalm in your own words. This is something that I'm not great at, because unfortunately, I am seriously deficient in the creativity department. But I've attempted to at least modify the psalms to fit me/my life/my current experiences. I may work up the nerve to post them here in the not-too-distant future.

But there's one in particular that I'd really like to share's been on my heart ever since I read it/studied it/wrote my own version. It expresses the psalmist's desire for peace in the city of Jerusalem, their place of worship, the place where God's presence dwelt. It is found in Psalm 122, and Beth gives us two different verisons of it (she gives two different versions for each psalm studied):

A Prayer for Jerusalem
A Davidic song of ascents.

1 I rejoiced with those who said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD."

2 Our feet are standing
within your gates, Jerusalem—

3 Jerusalem, built as a city [should be],
solidly joined together,

4 where the tribes, the tribes of the LORD, go up
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
(This is an ordinance for Israel.)

5 There, thrones for judgment are placed,
thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May those who love you prosper;

7 may there be peace within your walls,
prosperity within your fortresses."

8 Because of my brothers and friends,
I will say, "Peace be with you."

9 Because of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
--Psalm 122 (HCSB)

A song for the ascent to Jerusalem.
A psalm of David.
1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 And now here we are,
standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is a well-built city;
its seamless walls cannot be breached.
4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—
make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord,
as the law requires of Israel.
5 Here stand the thrones where judgment is given,
the thrones of the dynasty of David.
6 Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
May all who love this city prosper.
7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
“May you have peace.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.
--Psalm 122 (NLT)

As we studied this particular psalm, Beth had us consider it in the context of our own places of worship...our own churches and our own communities. I can feel the psalmists heart for the place of I have such a heart for mine.

This psalmist rejoiced at entering to worship in the place where God's presence dwelt. I rejoice both at entering my place of corporate worship, but also at the idea that the veil is torn and I can enter His presence for worship at any time.

This psalmist had an appreciation for the city of Jerusalem and the fact that it was well-built, knit together as one unit, as a city should be. I have an appreciation for the fact that we, as the body of Christ, are knit together as one unit, as His church should be.

This psalmist recognized the place where the thrones of judgment were established. I am able to recognize that our God is a holy and just God...and that though I've sinned, I've been justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ, who now sits enthroned above.

Finally, this psalmist prayed for peace for Jerusalem and prosperity for those who love her. My prayer is for peace, not only for my own place of corporate worship, but for Christ's body as a whole, and my prayer is for prosperity for those who love Him and His church.

I actually went last week to purposely take some time to appreciate my place of corporate worship. On Friday nights, I, along with some of the people in my singles group, are accustomed to spending a large portion of the evening at our church building, down in our singles room, playing games, watching TV/movies, eating, or just talking. Sometimes...when we are just sitting there, not really doing anything...and it gets late...and I start to get a little sleepy, but am not quite ready to go home...I will go wander around the church building. Not to do anything or mess with anything, but just to walk around. I'll walk through the hallways, perhaps stop in the library to flip through a good book. There's something fascinating to me anyway about being able to walk through a ginormously empty building...and because this building is a place of worship for me, it holds a special place in my heart.

This past Friday night, though, rather than walk down the hallway, I went into our dark, empty auditorium. I walked all the way down the aisle to the very front, and I took a seat on the steps of the stage, in front of the podium. I sat there, letting my mind be flooded with all the memories of experiences that I have worshiping there over the past ~3 years. It was interesting, because I'm almost certain that particular view of the room, that view from the pulpit, is one that I'll not ever really see, when the room is actually filled with people, at least not in my fellowship of believers. But still...I imagined the place filled with my brothers and sisters, and wondered what it must be like to lead them into the presence of our Father in worship in some way or form. I prayed for those who are blessed with that task. I prayed for our ministers who preach the Word...for those who lead singing...for all those who share scripture with us...for our Shepherds who lead us to the Father's throne in prayer...and for all those who guide our hearts/minds in communion. I looked up to the balcony and thought of all those who might sacrifice by having to work a little harder at being engaged in our worship as they run sound and a/v equipment during our worship times together. My prayer was one of extreme gratitude for those who lead us in worship and for those with whom I am privilged to worship.

I reached out and took a Bible off the front pew, turned to this, Psalm 122, and read it, by the light from my cell phone. Then I took a cue, both from a friend of mine that I've seen in worship, and from Beth Moore, who suggests that we spend some time in prayer each day actually face-down before the Lord. I was able to kneel in prayer and lay prostrate in my place of worship, thanking the Lord, not only for our worship there in that place, but thanking Him for now making His dwelling among us, as His Spirit lives in us. Thanking Him for sending His Immanuel to make that possible, though we were unworthy. And praying for His peace to be felt by all who are His.

Less than 24 hours later, I was experiencing one of the best nights of worship I've ever had there at Pleasant Valley, with brothers and sisters from all over the city, as we gathered for a Saturday Night of Praise. We were able to lift our voices to God, and have Him inhabit our praise!

With all of that in mind, here is MY version of Psalm 122:

I rejoice with those who say to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord."

We stand at the front of this church,
this church that is knit together,
with Christ as the unifying thread,
the way His church should be.

This is where His people come, the people of the Lord.
This is where they come to worship Him together,
to learn to act justly and to love mercy as Christ did.

Pray for the peace of His church:
"May all who love her be secure. May there be peace within."

"May the Lord be our peace and prosper each of us,
as He makes His dwelling among us!"

Thanks for reading, and much love!