This Friday, our pastors will gather together for this year’s Queensland District pastors’ conference. It has been a year of ‘firsts’ and for the first time we will have pastors’ conference online. We will gather under the theme ‘Then, I will praise you,’ which comes from our conference Scripture passage, Psalm 43:3-5.
Many of you may know that I love Psalms. I particularly love singing Psalms, for Psalms were written to be sung. Psalms are great prayers, because they cover the broad scope of our feelings. Often our prayers to God are prayers we think God wants to hear, rather what we truly feel. It’s like we try to hide the truth from God. This is where the Psalms help. Psalms help us to be honest with God and to be honest with ourselves.
As Ronald Rolheiser writes, sometimes we feel good and our impulse is to speak words of gratitude and the Psalms give us that voice. But our lives also have times when disappointment and bitterness spontaneously boil under the surface. Again, the Psalms give us an honest voice and we can open up all those angry feelings to God. Other times, we are filled with the sense of our own inadequacy, with the fact that we cannot measure up to the trust and love that is given to us. The Psalms again give us a voice for this.
Luther found great solace in the Psalms. He understood the Psalter as a Christ-centred book and he used the Psalms as a model for Christian prayer. He repeatedly turned to the Psalms for solace and strength. During the pandemic of their time, the Black Plague, he found great comfort in the words of his favourite Psalm, Psalm 46. This ancient song provided the inspiration for Luther’s famous Reformation hymn, A Mighty Fortress.
In a couple of weeks, Lutheran Churches throughout the world, will resound once again with the singing of that famous Reformation hymn, based on Psalm 46. Many times, when discouraged, Luther would turn to Philip Melanchthon and say, ‘Come, Philip, let us sing the 46th Psalm together.’ And together, they would sing:
A sure stronghold our God is He,
A timely shield and weapon;
Our helper He will be and set us free
From every ill can happen.
What would Luther say to us in the midst of our own pandemic in 2020? I think he would turn to us and say: ‘Come, dear brothers and sisters in Queensland, let us sing the 46th Psalm together.’