Praying with the Psalms – Tuesday 23rd June

He is worthy of praise and adoration

Psalm 48

  1. Great is the Lord and highly to be praised,
    in the city of our God.
  2. His holy mountain is fair and lifted high,
    the joy of all the earth.
  3. On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place,
    stands the city of the great king.
  4. In her palaces God has shown himself
    to be a sure refuge.
  5. For behold, the kings of the earth assembled
    and swept forward together.
  6. They saw, and were dumbfounded;
    dismayed, they fled in terror.
  7. Trembling seized them there;
    they writhed like a woman in labour,
    as when the east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish.
  8. As we had heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God:
    God has established her for ever.
  9. We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God,
    in the midst of your temple.
  10. As with your name, O God,
    so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
    your right hand is full of justice.
  11. Let Mount Zion rejoice and the daughters of Judah be glad,
    because of your judgements, O Lord.
  12. Walk about Zion and go round about her;
    count all her towers;
    consider well her bulwarks; pass through her citadels,
  13. That you may tell those who come after
    that such is our God for ever and ever.
    It is he that shall be our guide for evermore.

Reflection

When I read this Psalm I began to imagine what the Kings, who assembled against the city of God, must have seen to cause such panic, trembling and fear. The mountain, walls, towers, ramparts, citadels, great gates barred shut, defences armed and ready. If this was a movie, you can imagine the dramatic music, the thunder, lighting and rain – probably…

It is a dramatic description, though: both of the city, and of the reaction of those who rose up against it. The city is a symbol of power, strength and might; and before it great Kings are reduced to trembling, trepidation and terror.

But it’s not the city itself, as fearsome and imposing as it must have been, that causes the Kings to fear and break down like the shattered ships of Tarshish – it is the almighty God who dwells and moves within it, protecting it. The city is merely walls and gates, stone and metal; and the people within it, its warriors, are no different or more powerful than those who come against them, unless God is with them.

The reader is encouraged to walk in and through this city, bringing to mind the ways in which God has moved to save it and its people. And as we do that, we’re encouraged to respond in worship in the city made safe by the indwelling God. The city, and indeed this Psalm, serve as a memory of God’s saving work, like a museum telling a story.

And I think that’s the point. The writer wants every generation to understand not just what God has done in this particular city, but who God is. It’s less about the city than it is about the God who dwells in it. This is our God, it says, and he is worthy of praise and adoration forever in every generation.

Places and things have stories to tell. You could go on a stadium tour of your favourite team for example, and it would tell stories of legendary matches played in years past.

It’s been interesting too, to see the anger brewing against certain statues and symbols around the world which tell an uncomfortable story of slavery and our involvement in it. Places and things can recall powerful memories which can influence our future.

This comes at a time when the Church is considering the future use of its places and things, like its buildings. I think a good question to ask ourselves is: “What story do we want them to tell and what memories will they make?”

May they be stories and memories of a dynamic and vibrant Church faithful to the witness of the gospel in their communities. Most of all let’s pray that they would point beyond themselves, like the city, telling a wonderful story of what God has done in the lives of the people who pass through them.

After all, I think God in more interested in people than buildings. Let’s not forget the wonder of Pentecost; the Spirit poured out on people, not buildings, and spread out across the world with people through every generation. God was encountered in the city, may be encountered in our places of worship, but he moves in, dwells within and transforms people.

I’ve loved seeing the church adapt to the COVID-19 world with our buildings closed. And although this has been painful for all of us, even when our buildings do re-open, let’s continue to expand our imaginations as we seek to pass on the story of what God has done in people, making the best use of whatever resources we have.

And when we see God move, let’s respond in worship. For this is our God, and He is worthy of praise and adoration forever, in every generation.

Reflection by Joe Magill
Curate (Town Centre Hub)