St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Edina, Minnesota
The Reverend Neil Alan Willard, M.Div.
Proper 14, August 12, 2012
“Taste and see that the Lord is good . . .” (Psalm 34:8, BCP)
The psalms, both said and sung, are a treasured part of common prayer and worship in the Anglican tradition. Yet most Christians, including most Episcopalians, neglect these heartfelt words that have so much to say about the life of faith — a life of faith not as we wish it to be but as it really is. Aside from the 23rd Psalm and a few phrases here and there, these words are too often forgotten.
We sang one of those phrases a few minutes ago from Psalm 34: “Taste and see that the Lord is good . . .” However, it’s not language that’s merely poetic or sentimental. That summary of life with God is more than a lovely turn of phrase, and that’s what I want us to think about together this morning.
There are different kinds of psalms in the Bible. There are psalms of lament, for example, in which a real person in the midst of a real problem cries out to God. Those who say or sing these prayers usually promise to praise the name of Lord if they’re delivered from their distress. Now you might never have prayed like that, staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night. But there’s a 100% chance that the person sitting next to you has. I’ll let you think about that for a moment. It’s true, we’ve all been there.
Psalm 34 is not a lament. It’s a psalm of thanksgiving. It’s that prayer that you promised to pray after going through hell and living to tell the story:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me out of all my terror.
That’s the testimony of the psalmist, his witness to the mighty acts of God that, as one commentator puts it, “enlarges the circle of those who revere the Lord.” I love that image of the expansion of the boundaries of faith through the telling of the story, a story with God at the center of it. We all have those kinds of stories — stories that aren’t meant to be kept to ourselves.
Psalm 34 goes beyond a piety that’s merely private or a faith that remains only in the personal realm. The person who prays this psalm tells others of what the Lord has done for her. She does more than that, however. Her beautiful words of praise and her testimony to the people around her are transformed into a concrete act of love. Continue reading