Psalm 122 — Starting the road with praise

We are going to worship God — Woohoo!

Children may be more interested in Jesus than you think. A blog by Deconstructing Church talks about children finding church and Sunday school boring yet in another context are asking questions.

My experience is that many people without recent experience of the church believe that church is boring. In some places it is. I have occasionally been there. In contrast, how many wake up on Sunday morning and think.”Time for Church, Yipee!”

Road with light

Psalm 122

A song of ascents. Of David.

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
Our feet are standing
    in your gates, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city
    that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up –
    the tribes of the Lord –
to praise the name of the Lord
    according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
    the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.’
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

York Minster from Stonegate
The road to church, in this case, York Minster south transept.

The Songs of Ascents or Songs of Degrees are calls from the world to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth division of the Psalter and are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.

Are we nearly there yet?

When my children were young and we were going on holiday they were too excited to wait, “Are we nearly there yet,” that phrase dreaded by parents 10% of the way into a journey would echo in our ears. The children were too excited, they couldn’t wait for the holiday to start. Telling them that the journey is part of the holiday did not help. Later on, when they had learnt irony, they started asking even earlier in the journey as a joke, once when the keys were still in the door.

The Psalmist knows this. The journey is about to start, he is delighted to be asked to go to Jerusalem, but he is talking as if he is already there at the gates of Jerusalem such is his joy that he is going. The pilgrimage is as much about the journey as it is about being there. This psalm combines the excitement of “are we nearly there yet” with enjoying the journey,

A song of praise

Psalm 120 was a rant, Psalm 121 a lament. at last we have a song of praise. I say at last because praise is central not only to the worship of the Christian but also to the life of the Christian.

I am writing this in lockdown due to a pandemic. Churches are closed and I am waiting to go back, but not too quickly. I miss that part of corporate worship where you can hear other people’s praises in the songs and responses. I can praise God on my own but it is not the same thing. There is something special about singing praise to God together.

The language in the psalm is interesting. To praise God at the start of the journey but speaking as if you have already arrived tells us a lot about what happens when we praise God. To praise God gives a foretaste of our destination. To the Psalmist it was a foretaste of worship at the Jerusalem Temple. The prayers for the preservation of the city of Jerusalem reflect that this last section of the psalms, from Psalm 107 to 150, were compiled after the exile in Babylon. Jerusalem, including the Temple had been destroyed before, the Psalmist is braying that it did not happen again.

Praising God together in the Spirit gives us a foretaste of what worship in heaven will be like, what praising God in his actual presence will be like. What we do now is only a poor version of what being in God’s presence will be like, but like Psalm 122, it is a start.

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