Revised Common Lectionary--2007
For May-Aug, 2007 click here
Easter IV (Apr. 29)
Acts 13:15-16, 26ff.
Psalm 23 (I)
Psalm 23 (II)
Rev. 7:9-17 (I)
Rev. 7:9-17 (II)
Easter III (Apr. 22)
VT Killing Meditation
Acts 9:1-19a (I)
Acts 9:1-19a (II)
Easter II (Apr. 15)
Acts 5:12-32 (I)
Acts 5:12-32 (II)
Easter (Apr. 8)
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18 (I)
John 20:1-18 (II)
Lent VI (Apr. 1)
Psalm 22 (I)
Psalm 22 (II)
Lent V (Mar. 25)
Psalm 126 (I)
Psalm 126 (II)
John 12:1-8 (I)
John 12:1-8 (II)
Lent IV (Mar. 18)
Luke 15:11-32 (I)
Luke 15:11-32 (II)
II Cor. 5:16-21
Lent III (Mar. 11)
I Cor 10:1-13
Lent II (Mar. 4)
Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18
Luke 13:31-35 (I)
Luke 13:31-35 (II)
Lent I (Feb. 25)
Deut 26: 1-11
Luke 4:1-13 (I)
Luke 4:1-13 (II)
Rom 10: 5-13
Epiphany VII (2/18)
Gen. 45:1-15 (I)
Gen. 45:1-15 (II)
I Cor 15:35-38,42ff.
Epiphany VI(Feb 11)
Luke 6:17-26 I
Luke 6:17-26 II
I Cor 15:12-20
Epiphany V (Feb 4)
Is. 6 (The Senses I)
Is. 6 (The Senses II)
Luke 5:1-11 (II)
I Cor 15:1-11
I Cor 15:1-11 (II)
Epiphany IV (Jan 28)
Jer. 1:4-10 (II)
Luke 4:22-30 (I)
Luke 4:22-30 (II)
I Cor 13 (I)
Epiphany III(Jan 21)
I Cor 12:12-31
Epiphany II (Jan 14)
John 2:1-11 (I)
John 2:1-11 (II)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (I)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (II)
Baptism (Jan 7)
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Luke 3 (II)
Easter Sunday--April 8, 2007
Bill Long 3/27/07
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; The Glorious Day
Here is the Psalm, in the NRSV:
"O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!
2 Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’ ....
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16 the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Playing in the background as I write this essay are the optimistic and triumphant strains of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." The two verses which most speak to me now are these:
"Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!"
and, as a consequence,
"Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!"
The message is a glorious one, made more so by the realization that we have experienced Lent, that we have, with the Psalmist, been sorely disciplined but the Lord has not given us over to death. "I shall not die, but I shall live" (Ps. 118:17); surrexit Christus, alleluia." Once you have drawn near the gates of death and have been brought back from them; once the yawning abyss no longer bids you jump; once these things have happened, you never never again want to go back there again, and you know without a doubt that fears, insecurities, minor issues and inconsequential facts in life are no longer going to dominate you. You are free, free in the tearing wind, free to embrace and discover and love life and others to the fullest. That is the unexpectedly joyful news of this day, friends. And speak it boldly and clearly, for you will never find a message quite so good, a story quite so compelling, a fulness quite so full. Other lures there may be out there; sport and hobby and so many things beckon to us, but they are all made richer, all take on a more burnished sheen because of this day. Let's briefly look at these verses, and discover in them three things: (1) The Wonderful Song (vv. 14-21); (2) The Marvelous Stone (vv. 22-23); and (3) The Glorious Day (v. 24).
I. The Wonderful Song (vv. 14-21)
I should first note vv. 1-2, which act as a frame or a context for the entire Psalm. God's steadfast love, God's hesed, endures forever, and Israel is to affirm that. The affirmation isn't a sterile one, however, for the rest of the Psalm will give reasons for it. The basic reason for our celebration of God's steadfast love is a victory, a deliverance, in the time of need. "I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me" (v. 13). Because of the Lord's help at a crucial time, the Psalmist and we can sing the wonderful song.
The NRSV translates v. 14 as "The Lord is my strength and my might." Older translations, and many other contemporary ones have, "The Lord is my strength and my song." The difference in Hebrew between the two words is miniscule. Let's take both readings and talk about our "strong song," our "vigorous verses," our "tintinnabulary treasure." The Hebrew word for "glad songs" in v. 15, rinnah, actually can be taken two ways. The word is used in Ps. 88:2 ("incline your ear to my cry") as a cry of despair or lamentation. But other uses of it in the Psalms (42:5; 47:1) also stress its joyous character. Thus, when 118:15 says, the "voice of cry and salvation," we know that we are talking about the glad songs of victory rather than the laments of the heart.
Those glad songs arise in a context of chastening and drawing near to death (vv. 18-19). Indeed, glad songs are only so glad as the depths we have endured are deep. The Psalmist never says precisely what was the punishment he endured (v. 19), but it was an extreme one. The Hebrew expresses it by doubling the verb. "Corrected, he corrected me," or "punished, he punished me," it says literally. It acts as an intensive, so that the careful reader recognizes that the Psalmist indeed drew near the gates of death.
But that threatening situation is no longer, and the Psalmist, and we, can sing the wonderful song.
II. The Marvelous Stone (vv. 22-23)
Once you have been delivered from death's door, you see the world in different terms. You have a new-felt freedom, a new gratitude for life, an energy that you thought you would never again possess, and a task that seems so starkly clear and inviting that you wonder why you never before your great distress recognized it. Indeed, you are a new person. You, who were a rejected person, are now a valuable one; you, who were the cast-off stone have become the "head of the corner." Or, if we read these verses in a more general sense, the Psalmist is saying that the reversal of his fortunes allows him to see the world in new terms. The thing that is rejected has now become the glue that holds the whole structure together. That is the meaning of the image of the discarded stone that is now the cornerstone. So vivid does this image become for the Christian church that in no less than six places in the NT is it related to Jesus (Mt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20; I Pet. 2:7).
He becomes the rejected "stone" par excellence; the one who now is the head of the corner. That interesting Hebrew phrase, "head of the corner," either suggests something like the keystone of an arch or, more probably, a corner rock that holds together two great sides of a building. It is, in short, the "glue," the "key," the "anchor" of the entire structure.
And we ought not to lose the theological point for today. The wonderful news of Easter is that God makes use of rejected things to become the foundation and cornerstone of God's great new work. This is theological recycling. God takes the rejectamenta, the ejecta, the excrementa, the scoria, the dross, the offscouring of all things to become the source and anchor for the new thing of the future. Just think of it. We praise and make rich those people in our culture who can make discarded paper cups into more paper cups; to those who can take rejected plastic bottles and put more soda in them. Why not praise God who can do that for human lives? Friends, that is the message of the marvelous stone.
III. The Glorious Day (v. 24)
When all this is said, then, what can we do but to agree with the Psalmist in v. 24:
"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
We realize, first of all, that we have a new day. Today is a gift, a present that was not necessarily promised us. The one who can give us a song and make us a prized stone is the one who brings us a new day. What can we say to all this? So, as a consequence, let's rejoice and be glad in it. Let that message ring out throughout the land and through the world. It is one that needs hearing in our day. Will you be a voice for the song?