Archive for December, 2013

Lord’s Day 40: All Such Are Murder

Catechism and Psalter

Lord’s Day 40, our focus today in URC Psalmody’s ongoing Heidelberg Catechism series, addresses the Christian response to the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder.”

105 Q.  What is God’s will for us in the sixth commandment?

A.  I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor—
not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture,
and certainly not by actual deeds—
and I am not to be party to this in others;
rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

Prevention of murder is also why
government is armed with the sword.

106 Q.  Does this commandment refer only to killing?

A.  By forbidding murder God teaches us
that he hates the root of murder:
envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.

In God’s sight all such are murder.

107 Q.  Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?

A.  No.
By condemning envy, hatred, and anger
God tells us
to love our neighbor as ourselves,
to be patient, peace-loving, gentle,
merciful, and friendly to him,
to protect him from harm as much as we can,
and to do good even to our enemies.

Suggested Songs

158, “O God, No Longer Hold Thy Peace” (Psalm 83)

(Sung by Grace URC in Dunnville, ON)

“I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds.”  Although the psalmist Asaph in Psalm 83 focuses on the evil intent of Israel’s enemies, he understands the true nature of their murderous plans.  In the words of the Psalter Hymnal’s adaptation, “And they who with Thy people strive/Make war, O God, with Thee.”  However, Asaph does not take revenge into his own hands, even in the words of this imprecatory psalm.  Rather, he pleads with God to “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD” (Psalm 83:16 ESV).  Asaph’s eyes are looking in the right direction: not with rage at his enemies, but with reverence at his God.

Thine ancient foes, conspiring still,
With one consent agree,
And they who with Thy people strive
Make war, O God, with Thee.
O God, who in our fathers’ time
Didst smite our foes and Thine,
So smite Thine enemies today
Who in their pride combine.

Make them like dust and stubble blown
Before the whirlwind dire,
In terror driven before the storm
Of Thy consuming fire.
Confound them in their sin till they
To Thee for pardon fly,
Till in dismay they, trembling, own
That Thou art God Most High.

258, “I Cried to God in My Distress” (Psalm 120)

“I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.”  The author of Psalm 120 clearly applied the sixth commandment to his own life, but it grieved him to see it so forcibly opposed by his companions.

Alas for me, whose lot is cast
With those who find their joy in strife!
With those who hate the paths of peace
I long have dwelt and spent my life.

In thought and act I am for peace,
Peace I pursue and ever seek;
But those about me are for strife,
Though I in love and kindness speak.

220, “O God, Whom I Delight to Praise” (Psalm 109)

“God tells us . . . to do good even to our enemies.”  Like Asaph and the author of Psalm 120, David in Psalm 109 approaches his enemies with love, even as he anticipates God’s judgment on them.  Although the Psalter Hymnal’s setting of Psalm 109 tends to embellish, its elaboration on vv. 3-5 is a helpful application of the sixth commandment.

Against me slanderous words are flung
From many a false and lying tongue;
Without a cause men hurl at me
The shafts of deadly enmity.

My good with evil they repay,
My love turns not their hate away;
The part of vengeance, Lord, is Thine;
To pray, and only pray, is mine.

101, “On God Alone My Soul Relies” (Psalm 55)

The keystone of Psalm 55 is its beloved exhortation, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (v. 22).  Indeed, vengeance belongs to God; prayer, love, and the selfless fruits of the Spirit are what belong to us.

On God alone my soul relies,
And He will soon relieve;
The Lord will hear my plaintive cries
At morning, noon, and eve.

He has redeemed my soul in peace,
From conflict set me free;
My many foes are made to cease,
And strive no more with me.

The living God in righteousness
Will recompense with shame
The men who, hardened by success,
Forget to fear His Name.

All treacherous friends who overreach
And break their plighted troth,
Who hide their hate with honeyed speech,
With such the Lord is wroth.

Upon the Lord thy burden cast,
To Him bring all thy care;
He will sustain and hold thee fast,
And give thee strength to bear.

God will not let His saints be moved;
Protected, they shall see
Their foes cut off and sin reproved;
O God, I trust in Thee.

–MRK

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Because He Comes, He Surely Comes

Yesterday, as West Sayville URC sang Psalter Hymnal number 190 from Psalm 98, “Sing a New Song to Jehovah,” I was reminded that I haven’t spent my customary amount of effort sharing Advent-related psalms on URC Psalmody. Thankfully, Joel Pearce of the Zeltenreich URC in Lancaster, PA (and Classis East’s member of the URC Songbook Committee), stepped in with this nice post about Psalm 98 and advent music in general–which I’ll conveniently reblog.

–MRK

token lines

I have written in the past about why Psalms are appropriate for Advent and Christmas worship (quoting at length from C.S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms ). Psalms have a long history of being sung during Advent. Before most Advent/Christmas hymns were even penned, churches were singing Psalms to celebrate Christ’s incarnation. Traditional Advent Psalms include (but are certainly not limited to) Psalms 89, 96, 98, and 113. To go back further, the “Advent” hymns in the Gospels are rich in Psalm imagery; Mary’s song in Luke 1, for example, is rich in psalm themes, especially Psalms 89 and 92.

Psalms are chock full of themes that have historically been associated with Christ’s incarnation. These include justice for the poor and oppressed, comfort for the downtrodden, judgment for the wicked, the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises, and a cosmic rejoicing in God’s mercy and reign. Singing Psalms with these themes helps to balance the sentimentality of some Christmas songs, as well…

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Lord’s Day 39: In Authority over Me

Catechism and Psalter

With Lord’s Day 39 of the Heidelberg Catechism we move from the first “table” of the Law (concerning our relation to God) to the second (concerning our relation to our neighbors).  Today we’ll examine the teaching of this brief Lord’s Day concerning the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

104 Q.  What does God require in the fifth commandment?

A.  That I honor, love, and be loyal to
my father and mother
and all those in authority over me;
that I obey and submit to them, as is proper,
when they correct and punish me;
and also that I be patient with their failings—
for through them God chooses to rule us.

Suggested Songs

245, “Thou Who Didst Make and Fashion Me” (Psalm 119)

“That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me.”  The basis for authority in the family rests in God’s authority over us, his children.  Because God has made and fashioned us, we owe him submission in everything.  Further, we display our obedience to him by submitting to the lower authorities by whom he chooses to rule us.  The Psalter Hymnal’s versification of Psalm 119:73-80 displays the psalmist’s reverence and submission to his Maker.

Thou who didst make and fashion me,
O make me wise Thy law to learn;
Then they that fear Thee shall be glad
When they my hope in God discern.

Thou, Lord, art just in all Thy ways,
And faithful when Thou chastenest me;
I pray Thee, let Thy promised grace
Thy servant’s help and comfort be.

149, “My People, Give Ear” (Psalm 78)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“That I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.”  Psalm 78 reinforces the message of this Lord’s Day in two ways.  First, it exhorts us to heed the admonition of our parents and overseers.  Second, it warns us to guard ourselves against the sins of previous generations (though bearing patiently, as the Catechism teaches, with their “weaknesses and shortcomings”).

My people, give ear, attend to my word,
In parables new deep truths shall be heard;
The wonderful story our fathers made known
To children succeeding by us must be shown.

Instructing our sons, we gladly record
The praises, the works, the might of the Lord,
For He has commanded that what He has done
Be passed in tradition from father to son.

Let children thus learn from history’s light
To hope in our God and walk in His sight,
The God of their fathers to fear and obey,
And ne’er like their fathers to turn from His way.

269, “Unless the Lord the House Shall Build” (Psalm 127)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI and West Sayville URC on Long Island, New York)

The apostle Paul devoted an entire section of his letter to the Ephesians to submission among the family and within the body of Christ.  This is a beautiful and Biblical pattern as we realize that “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1 ESV).  In honoring the fifth commandment, the Christian family ultimately honors God, the Lord of every area of their lives.

Unless the Lord the house shall build,
The weary builders toil in vain;
Unless the Lord the city shield,
The guards a useless watch maintain.

Lo, children are a great reward,
A gift from God in very truth;
With arrows is his quiver stored
Who joys in children of his youth.

And blest the man whose age is cheered
By stalwart sons and daughters fair;
No enemies by him are feared,
No lack of love, no want of care.

–MRK

Back to Regular Programming

Who would think so much could happen in a single semester?

Having just returned last Friday from my first four months of study at Geneva College, I’m finally able to catch my breath and reflect a little bit on the whirlwind that was this semester.  URC Psalmody’s silence over the last few months should be proof enough that it’s been an unprecedentedly busy period of my life.

My introductory studies in civil engineering, by themselves, were not unmanageable.  However, despite my best efforts, I was unable to put music on the back burner.  As a result, I have become heavily involved in Geneva’s music department, partly in accompanying the lessons and performances of vocal students on the piano, and partly in joining the school choir, the Genevans.  Related to these obligations are preparations for the choir’s upcoming tour to the Philippines—but more on that in a future post, Lord willing.

Besides showing me that I can’t get away from music, this first semester also convinced me against pursuing an engineering career.  Although I am still earnestly trying to discern God’s direction for my life, I am taking small steps towards an eventual track into the ministry.  The first big step has been switching to a communications major with a concentration in public relations, into which I’ll also throw a music minor.

That’s a very basic overview of some of the most significant events of this semester, during those long stretches when URC Psalmody hasn’t been kept up-to-date.  Over Christmas break my goal is to finish up our series on the Heidelberg Catechism, now terribly out of sequence, and wrap up a few other loose ends.  Since I expect a slightly lighter workload next semester, I hope to be able to maintain a more regular presence on the blog in 2014.  Just as with everything else, though, I’m learning to take things one step at a time.  For now, I look forward to delving again into the riches of the Heidelberg Catechism and connecting its teaching to our singing from the Psalter Hymnal.

God’s blessings be with you during this holiday season.

–MRK

Winter at Geneva College


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