Speak Lord: Loving Lord

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I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
I will establish your dynasty for ever
and set up your throne through all ages.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

‘He will say to me: “You are my father,
my God, the rock who saves me.”
I will keep my love for him always;
with him my covenant shall last.’

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

Responsorial Psalm for the 4th Sunday of Advent
Psalm 88:2-5,27,29

The Lord makes himself one with us, join us with him so that together we form family. Often a dsyfunctional family: look at David, look at us. But also often a holy family: look at Mary, Joseph, Jesus…

But underpinnning all and surrounding all is the music of love…

King David. Matthis Stom, Palis Longchamps, Marseille. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Help us on…

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The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’

When Samuel arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands there before him,’ but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him: God does not see as man sees: man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’

He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’

At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.

1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13

The First reading at Mass today draws us into the narrative of monarchy in Israel.

That narrative depcits Israel as rejecting at least something of the kingship of God in choosing to have a king such as the nations have. It leads to the collapse of the community brought from Egypt, and to exile in Babylon. When Israel returns from Babylon it is a chastened community.

But in this passage we are presented with a new start, and with hope…

 

  • How do you seek to ensure that your new starts have firm foundations?

Stained Glass. All Saints, Leamington Spa. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Shepherd Lord

 

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The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday of Lent, is perhaps the best known psalm in the English-speaking world, at any rate, and the one most commonly requested at funerals and weddings. It is a psalm that speaks of confidence and trust in the Lord in good times and bad, hard, sad times.

We sing it tomorrow after hearing of the shepherd by chosen to be Israel’s king. Kingship is a troubled concept in the Old Testament. For Israel has its king – the Lord – but it hankers after kings such as the other nations have… and though God allows them their kings they often enough turn out to bring disaster on the people.

The Bible denotes Psalm 22 as a Psalm of David. Whether this means he worte it, no-one knows. But the account of David – despite its ups and downs and tragedies – does reveal him to be a person who knew God to be his Lord, his king, and who placed his trust in him. The psalm expressed just such a faith.

And  today, still, not least by this psalm, David’s faith continues to inform ours.

Mosiac of the Good Shepherd, The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425 C.E., Ravenna, Italy. (c) 2004, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Our King

david-king

All the tribes of Israel then came to David at Hebron. ‘Look’ they said ‘we are your own flesh and blood. In days past when Saul was our king, it was you who led Israel in all their exploits; and the Lord said to you, “You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.”’

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.

2 Samuel 5:1-3

Today is the feast of Christ the King, and the last Sunday of the Church’s Year. It is also the last day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Kingship is a challenging concept in the Old Testament. Israel chooses to have an earthly king and in so doing jeopardises her relationship with her one true King, namely God.

Her first king was Saul, and by this point in 2 Samuel Israel is all too aware of his shortcomings. She knows David’s better qualities, but has yet to learn of his weaknesses. God guarantees the line of David, but that line brings disaster on Israel, leading to the exile and loss of the Northern tribes and then the humiliation and exile of the Southern tribes.

Israel and her kings are unfaithful. Then comes the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and the King of kings is born, Jesus. A King unlike kings he wins salvation not for a people and a time, but for all peoples and all times. Jesus achieves what has seemed but a fanciful dream – and he invites us to share in the fullness of it.

We live in earthly kingdoms and republics but are invited even here invited to live as his brothers and sisters in the Kingdom.

Israel anointed David for his kingship. We are anointed in Baptism and Confirmation to share in Christ’s.

  • How would you describe your king?
  • In which of his qualities would you most like his help to grow?

David crowned by Samuel. All Saints church, Leamington Spa. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: the newness of the song

Gaving Turk apple core

Yesterday, the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we sang a psalm.

The psalm, the word of the Lord we sang, exhorted us to sing a new song…

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Psalm 95:1-3,7-10

What does that ‘sing a new song’ mean?

It is, at least on the face of it, a somewhat odd sentiment for us to vocalise and not least in the words of a song some 3000 years old! Of course Davidic copyright is long expired, but so is the author so there is no benefit to him in promoting a fresh repertoire.

Perhaps what is meant is that we the singers need to imbue the old song with new meaning. That we need to sing not merely mindful of what has been, but especially are to sing of the current wonders of the Lord.

Our song needs to be informed, even validated, by the personal encounter with the living Lord, an encounter that is the touchstone of the authentic Christian and Jewish life.

It is much easier for our religious life to be demonstrated by a relationship to a religious institution: Temple, synagogue, Church or church, Order or congregation, state of life, prayer group or whatever. These things can help, but heaven help us when they become a replacement for that lived relationship with God.

  •  How do you best sustain your relationship with God?
  • What challenges it?
  • Where does it support you?
  • Where does it challenge you?
  • What is the new song you sing?

Ergo sum (2008). Gavin Turk. Bronze cast painted in oil paint. Collection of Manchester Art Gallery. Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The love of the Lord is forever.

David's Tomb

The psalm at Sunday’s Mass, the 4th Sunday of Advent, picks up the Lord’s promise to David, and makes it reason not only for David’s giving thanks, but our joining him in giving praise.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens.

‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
I will establish your dynasty for ever
and set up your throne through all ages.

‘He will say to me: “You are my father,
my God, the rock who saves me.”
I will keep my love for him always;
with him my covenant shall last.’

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

Psalm 88:2-5,27,29

We are the present recipients of the fulfilment of the promises to David. Promises fulfilled not by an earthly kingdom and royal lineage, but by the eternal kingship of Christ crucified and risen again, and promising to be with us for ever.

In the mystery of God’s love even we finite creatures are on the threshold of eternal life. The love of God calls us to life and offers to hold us to this life for ever.

Photograph of the sarcophagus venerated on Mount Zion as the Tomb of David.  (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Praise the Lord who loves us.

David

The first reading at Mass on the 4th Sunday of Advent comes from the 2nd book of Samuel. It establishes the promise of the Lord to David that the Lord will make a royal house for David, a line of kings that will last for ever.

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:
‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the  pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-11,16

How little David merits this honour, and yet it is into (if not from!) this male line, frequently dishonoured and compromised, that Jesus is born, God from God, Light from light, and King of kings.

For all his failings David remembers the wonder of God and strives to honour it. If we imitate him in his failings, maybe we can imitate him in this also.

Window by Chagall from Chichester Cathedral. Based on a theme of Psalm 150 ‘…let everything that hath breath praise the Lord’. Photograph (c) 2002, Allen Morris.