Written by Matt Benton, Pastor of Bethel UMC in Woodbridge, VA.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!
Theologian Kathryn Tanner says that God is the giver of all good gifts. That God’s essence; who God is and what God does, is to give us good things. The Psalms are such a gift from God. We have been looking at different Psalms throughout this Lenten devotional because the Psalms are a good gift given to us by God.
What we have seen as we have looked at different Psalms is simply how different the Psalms can be. There are Psalms for all of life’s occasions. Over the last few weeks we have encountered Psalms of praise, Psalms that declare God’s majesty and might and goodness, Psalms of victory, Psalms of pain, Psalms of the afflicted, Psalms for times of tragedy. We have even seen Psalms that call curses upon our enemies.
And what’s more we have seen that the Psalms were the prayerbook, not just of the Church, but of Jesus Christ Himself. These were the words said and prayed by God incarnate. When God came to be with us and among us in Jesus, the Psalms gave God-in-the-flesh words to narrate life and teach truth. These same Psalms that Jesus spoke to narrate his experiences can also be used to narrate our experiences; these same Psalms that fit the life of Jesus also fit our lives.
In the low parts of our lives, the Psalms are there to give words to our experience. And Jesus is there to pray those words along with us. To be present with us in moments of pain. That abiding presence is a good gift given to us by the giver of all good gifts.
And Jesus shares in our moments of triumph too. When we pray Psalms of praise and victory, Jesus is with us to pray and praise along with us.
But what’s more, not only does Jesus come to pray with us, but we pray along with Jesus. Not only does Jesus share in our experience of life, but we come to share in his experience, too.
We saw on Good Friday that as we prayed Psalm 22 along with Christ, we were united with him in his suffering.
And today, we pray Psalm 111 with Christ. And share in his victory.
Psalm 111 is a Psalm of praise to God for God’s amazing works. Psalm 111 begins, “Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.” Psalm 111 is quoted twice in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel: Mary puts a line from Psalm 111 in the Magnificat as she sings about the greatness of God in coming to be with us in Christ and Zechariah quotes Psalm 111 as he sings about the miracle that is the birth of his son John.
Psalm 111 is a song we sing on Easter as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We sing this Psalm as God comes to us in Christ and we sing this Psalm as God defeats sin and death in Christ. We sing great are your works, God. Majestic are your deeds. For our God is gracious and compassionate. Our God hears the cry of those in need. Our God acts decisively and victoriously on our behalf. Our God is great. Our God is good.
We pray this in celebration of Christ’s victory. And as we celebrate Christ’s victory, we are made to share in that victory. We are present with Christ in his victory.
God is the giver of all good gifts. God has given us the Psalms to be our prayers throughout our lives; God has given us the gift of God’s abiding presence with us all our days. And God has given us to share in God’s victory in Christ over sin, over death, over evil, over wickedness. Our God has won! And because our God has won, we, too, have won. Because of the resurrection, we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Today is our victory day.
Today we sing:
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia. Amen.