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Praying the Psalms Spring 2017

Sunday School Series

Like a Tree Transplanted:

P sal m s o f Or i e n t at i o n

Week 2


Introduction* The'Psalms'are'the'most'introspective'book'in'all'of'Scripture.'As'a'collection'of' prayers,'they'give'expression'to'a'wide'range'of'human'emotions,'from'anger'and' agony'to'joy'and'thanksgiving.'In'offering'us'revelation'“from'the'ground'up,”'the' words'of'the'Psalms'are'marked'by'a'certain'rawness,'vulnerability,'and'unmitigated' honesty.'The'psalmist'dares'to'offer'God'faith'unfiltered,'or'as'John'Calvin'once'put' it,'“an'anatomy'of'every'part'of'the'soul.”'For'this'reason,'the'Psalms'have'the' power'to'reflect'for'us'the'full'spectrum'of'our'own'faith'experiences—not'only'our' prayers'of'praise'but'also'the'difficult'things'we'have'to'say'to'God'about'grief,'loss,' doubt,'and'injustice.'The'Psalms'permit,'and'even'sanctify,'a'way'of'being'with'God' and'one'another'that'is'characterized'by'real'candor'and'authenticity.' ' Noting'how'the'Psalter'plumbs'the'depths'of'human'emotion,'Old'Testament'scholar' Walter'Brueggemann'suggests'that'individual'psalms'can'be'grouped'into'one'of' three'categories'based'on'their'function:'psalms'of'orientation,'disorientation,'and' reorientation.'These'three'functions'mirror'experiences'or'seasons'of'orientationK disorientationKreorientation'in'our'own'lives.'The'goal'of'this'series'is'to'examine' examples'of'these'three'functions'of'the'psalms'and'to'reflect'on'how'praying'these' psalms'in'the'corresponding'seasons'of'our'lives'can'lead'us'to'a'deeper,'more' honest'connection'to'God'and'one'another.' ' This'lesson'looks'at'the'use'and'function'of'psalms'of'orientation'in'our'lives'of'faith.' '

Lesson*at*a*glance* ' * * * *

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I.****Seasons*and*Psalms*of*Orientation* II.***Wisdom*Psalms* III.**Psalms*of*Zion* IV.**Creation*Psalms* V.***Reflection*

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V.*Reflection* ! '

During'seasons'of'orientation,'when'everything'seems'right'with'the'world'and'our' lives,'it'is'easy'to'experience'joy'and'contentment.'But'seasons'of'orientation'can' also'dull'our'spiritual'senses.'During'these'times,'we'can'begin'to'take'God’s' blessings'for'granted.'We'can'even'be'lulled'into'thinking'that'our'wellKbeing'is'' solely'a'product'of'our'hard'work'and'talents.'' ' How'would'praying'psalms'of'orientation'help'you'guard'against' complacency'or'selfKreliance'during'seasons'when'everything'seems'to'be' going'well?'' ' ' We'know'from'both'the'psalms'and'our'own'life'experiences'that'seasons'of' orientation'don’t'last'forever.'There'are'events'that'shatter'the'equilibrium'and' threaten'to'drive'us'to'the'edge'as'we'are'faced'with'the'reality'of'disorder,'loss,' and'disappointment.'' ' In'seasons'of'disorientation,'do'you'think'there'would'still'be'any'value'in' praying'psalms'of'orientation?'If'so,'why?'How'might'praying'psalms'of' orientation'“out'of'season”'be'helpful'for'us?''' ' '

Praying*the*Psalms*of*Orientation*this*Week * Monday'–'Psalm'19' Tuesday'–'Psalm'112' Wednesday'–'Psalm'87' Thursday'–'Psalm'8' Friday'–'Psalm'133' Saturday'–'Psalm'65' '


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IV.*Creation*Psalms*

I.*Seasons*and*Psalms*of*Orientation*

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Typically,'we'think'of'the'Bible’s'creation'stories'as'being'localized'in'Genesis'1K3.' However,'there'are'a'number'of'psalms'that'also'speak'of'God’s'work'of'creation.' These'creation'psalms'are'marked'by'stirring'doxologies'and'soaring'expressions'of' wonder'as'the'psalmist'is'awed'by'God’s'attentive'care'at'both'the'macroK'and' microKlevels'of'the'universe.' * Read*Psalms*104:1B13.*Compare'this'portrait'of'creation'with'what'you' remember'from'Genesis'1.'Where'do'you'see'points'of'similarity?'What'new' ideas'about'creation'does'this'psalm'present?' * ' Psalm'104'draws'on'creation'imagery'from'ancient'Israel’s'neighbors'that'imagined' a'storm'god'(v.'2K4)'who'vanquishes'the'chaotic'primordial'waters'(vv.'6K7)'and' brings'nourishment'to'the'earth'(vv.'10K13).'From'the'psalmist’s'perspective,'it'is' Yahweh,'not'a'foreign'deity,'that'initiates'creation'and'sets'the'world'on'a'firm'and' unshakeable'foundation.'' ' Read*Psalms*139:7B17.*In'comparison'to'the'Psalm'104,'how'has'the'focus' of'this'creation'psalm'shifted?'' ' ' As'evident'in'the'two'passages'listed'above,'the'creation'psalms'extol'a'God'who'is' both'transcendent'and'immanent—that'is,'in'sovereign'control'of'the'universe'and' at'the'same'time,'involved'in'the'inner'workings'of'our'lives.'In'seasons'of' orientation'we'experience'both'of'these'aspects'of'God.' ' In'your'own'faith,'which'aspect'of'God'do'you'tend'to'place'more'emphasis' on:'transcendence'or'immanence?'Why?''

Seasons'of'orientation'are'characterized'by'orderliness,'goodness,'and'stability.'In' these'moments,'we'have'a'deep'and'abiding'sense'of'well'being.'Life'makes'sense.' There’s'balance'at'work'and'at'home.'Friends'are'plentiful'and'health'is'sound.''Our' faith'is'vibrant'and'growing.'To'quote'the'popular'hymn'of'old,'things'are'“well'with' the'soul.”' ' Are'you'currently'in'a'season'of'orientation?'If'not,'when'have'you' experienced'such'a'season?'Briefly'describe'what'was'happening'in'your'life' at'that'time'that'led'to'a'feeling'of'well'being'and'wholeness.' ' ' ' Psalms'of'orientation'are'the'least'frequently'occurring'type'in'the'Psalter.'They'are' marked'by'an'absence'of'tension'and'movement.'They'tend'to'affirm'God’s' providential'care'and'the'coherence'of'life.'These'psalms'frequently'speak'about'an' undisturbed'equilibrium'of'abundance'and'blessing.'Three'different'subKgenres'of' psalms'can'be'classified'as'psalms'of'orientation:' ' (1) Wisdom*psalms'[e.g.,'Pss'1,'37,'49,'73,'112,'119,'127,'133]' Offer'reflections'on'how'to'live'a'fruitful'life'before'God'through'the' guidance'of'wisdom'and'the'law'(torah)' '

(2) Songs*of*Zion'[e.g.,'Pss'46,'48,'76,'84,'87,'122]' Describe'God’s'abiding'presence'and'protective'power,'localized'in' Jerusalem,'God’s'holy'city' '

(3) Creation*psalms*[e.g.,'Pss'8,'19,'29,'65,'104,'139]'' Hails'God'as'the'sovereign'LORD'whose'majesty'is'visible'in'and'through' all'of'creation' ' In'the'following'sections,'we'will'examine'an'example'of'each'of'these'types'of' psalms'of'orientation.''


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II.*Wisdom*Psalms*

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III.*Songs*of*Zion* '

Wisdom'psalms'rarely'include'words'of'petition'or'praise.'Instead,'they'tend'to'offer' short'sayings'about'piety,'work,'and'the'importance'of'meditating'on'God’s'word' (torah).'A'number'of'wisdom'psalms'come'in'the'form'of'acrostic'poems,'where' each'verse'begins'with'a'successive'letter'in'the'Hebrew'alphabet.'The'ordered' structure'of'an'acrostic'poem'mirrors'the'psalmist’s'view'of'a'world'ordered'and' harmonious.' * Read*Psalm*1.'What'other'aspects'of'this'psalm’s'language'gives'the' impression'of'a'season'of'orientation?''' ' ' One'of'the'central'motifs'of'this'psalm'is'a'comparison'between'the'righteous'and' the'wicked.'While'the'former'are'pictured'as'wellKrooted'and'everKfruitful'trees'fed' by'streams'of'water,'the'latter'are'like'chaff—dry,'withered,'and'fleeting.'' ' * According'to'this'psalm,'what'is'the'source'of'the'“streams'of'water”'(v.'3)'' that'sustain'the'tree?''What'sorts'of'things'help'nourish'your'soul'and'make' seasons'of'orientation'possible'in'your'life?' ' ' In'Hebrew,'the'word'the'NRSV'and'most'other'English'Bible’s'translate'as'“planted”'' (v.'3)'is'not'the'typical'verb'used'to'describe'the'planting'of'a'seed'or'a'sapling.' Rather,'the'Hebrew'word'means'something'closer'to'“transplanted”'and'it'refers'to' the'process'of'uprooting'a'large,'mature'tree'and'moving'it'to'a'new'place.'' ' In'comparison'to'a'“planted”'tree'what'does'a'“transplanted”'tree'need'in' order'to'grow'and'flourish?'What'does'this'reveal'about'the'conditions' necessary'for'maintaining'seasons'of'orientation?'' '

A'number'of'psalms,'called'Songs'of'Zion,'extol'Mt.'Zion'(that'is,'Jerusalem)'as'the' “city'of'God,'the'holy'habitation'of'the'Most'High.”'In'the'theological'imagination'of' the'psalmist,'Zion'is'the'earthly'center'of'God’s'presence,'the'place'where'one'most' fully'experiences'spiritual'wellKbeing,'peace,'and'wholeness.'' * Read*Psalm*46.*What'strikes'you'about'the'imagery'in'this'psalm?'How'is'its' portrait'of'orientation'like'or'not'like'what'is'pictured'in'Psalm'1?'' ' ' Despite'the'threat'of'both'geological'(vv.'2K3)'and'geopolitical'(vv.'6)'upheaval,'the' psalmist'trusts'in'the'stability'of'a'world'under'God’s'providential'care.'The'nature' of'this'care'is'vividly'captured'in'a'threefold'refrain'“God'is'our'refuge”'(vv.'1,'7,'11)' that'frames'and'structures'the'song.'The'idea'of'God'as'a'refuge'is'the'most' commonly'occurring'metaphor'in'all'of'the'Psalter.' '

What'are'sources'and/or'places'of'refuge'in'your'life?'In'what'ways'do'they' help'you'experience'God'as'“a'very'present'help'in'trouble”'(v.'1)?'''' ' ' The'penultimate'line'of'the'psalm'offers'a'directive'to'the'reader:'“be'still'and'know' that'I'[the'LORD]'am'God”'(v.'10).'This'response—more'so'than'worship'or'service' or'study—is'the'most'appropriate'way'of'responding'to'a'God'who'makes'wars' cease'(v.'9)'and'ushers'in'peace.'

' When'was'the'last'time'you'were'“still”'in'your'life'–'not'just'sitting'down'or' stuck'in'traffic,'but'truly'at'rest'before'God'and'with'others?'How'might' cultivating'space'for'stillness'help'bring'about'experiences'of'“orientation”' in'your'life?* * * '


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II.*Wisdom*Psalms*

!

'

!

III.*Songs*of*Zion* '

Wisdom'psalms'rarely'include'words'of'petition'or'praise.'Instead,'they'tend'to'offer' short'sayings'about'piety,'work,'and'the'importance'of'meditating'on'God’s'word' (torah).'A'number'of'wisdom'psalms'come'in'the'form'of'acrostic'poems,'where' each'verse'begins'with'a'successive'letter'in'the'Hebrew'alphabet.'The'ordered' structure'of'an'acrostic'poem'mirrors'the'psalmist’s'view'of'a'world'ordered'and' harmonious.' * Read*Psalm*1.'What'other'aspects'of'this'psalm’s'language'gives'the' impression'of'a'season'of'orientation?''' ' ' One'of'the'central'motifs'of'this'psalm'is'a'comparison'between'the'righteous'and' the'wicked.'While'the'former'are'pictured'as'wellKrooted'and'everKfruitful'trees'fed' by'streams'of'water,'the'latter'are'like'chaff—dry,'withered,'and'fleeting.'' ' * According'to'this'psalm,'what'is'the'source'of'the'“streams'of'water”'(v.'3)'' that'sustain'the'tree?''What'sorts'of'things'help'nourish'your'soul'and'make' seasons'of'orientation'possible'in'your'life?' ' ' In'Hebrew,'the'word'the'NRSV'and'most'other'English'Bible’s'translate'as'“planted”'' (v.'3)'is'not'the'typical'verb'used'to'describe'the'planting'of'a'seed'or'a'sapling.' Rather,'the'Hebrew'word'means'something'closer'to'“transplanted”'and'it'refers'to' the'process'of'uprooting'a'large,'mature'tree'and'moving'it'to'a'new'place.'' ' In'comparison'to'a'“planted”'tree'what'does'a'“transplanted”'tree'need'in' order'to'grow'and'flourish?'What'does'this'reveal'about'the'conditions' necessary'for'maintaining'seasons'of'orientation?'' '

A'number'of'psalms,'called'Songs'of'Zion,'extol'Mt.'Zion'(that'is,'Jerusalem)'as'the' “city'of'God,'the'holy'habitation'of'the'Most'High.”'In'the'theological'imagination'of' the'psalmist,'Zion'is'the'earthly'center'of'God’s'presence,'the'place'where'one'most' fully'experiences'spiritual'wellKbeing,'peace,'and'wholeness.'' * Read*Psalm*46.*What'strikes'you'about'the'imagery'in'this'psalm?'How'is'its' portrait'of'orientation'like'or'not'like'what'is'pictured'in'Psalm'1?'' ' ' Despite'the'threat'of'both'geological'(vv.'2K3)'and'geopolitical'(vv.'6)'upheaval,'the' psalmist'trusts'in'the'stability'of'a'world'under'God’s'providential'care.'The'nature' of'this'care'is'vividly'captured'in'a'threefold'refrain'“God'is'our'refuge”'(vv.'1,'7,'11)' that'frames'and'structures'the'song.'The'idea'of'God'as'a'refuge'is'the'most' commonly'occurring'metaphor'in'all'of'the'Psalter.' '

What'are'sources'and/or'places'of'refuge'in'your'life?'In'what'ways'do'they' help'you'experience'God'as'“a'very'present'help'in'trouble”'(v.'1)?'''' ' ' The'penultimate'line'of'the'psalm'offers'a'directive'to'the'reader:'“be'still'and'know' that'I'[the'LORD]'am'God”'(v.'10).'This'response—more'so'than'worship'or'service' or'study—is'the'most'appropriate'way'of'responding'to'a'God'who'makes'wars' cease'(v.'9)'and'ushers'in'peace.'

' When'was'the'last'time'you'were'“still”'in'your'life'–'not'just'sitting'down'or' stuck'in'traffic,'but'truly'at'rest'before'God'and'with'others?'How'might' cultivating'space'for'stillness'help'bring'about'experiences'of'“orientation”' in'your'life?* * * '


'

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IV.*Creation*Psalms*

I.*Seasons*and*Psalms*of*Orientation*

'

''''''''''''''''''''

Typically,'we'think'of'the'Bible’s'creation'stories'as'being'localized'in'Genesis'1K3.' However,'there'are'a'number'of'psalms'that'also'speak'of'God’s'work'of'creation.' These'creation'psalms'are'marked'by'stirring'doxologies'and'soaring'expressions'of' wonder'as'the'psalmist'is'awed'by'God’s'attentive'care'at'both'the'macroK'and' microKlevels'of'the'universe.' * Read*Psalms*104:1B13.*Compare'this'portrait'of'creation'with'what'you' remember'from'Genesis'1.'Where'do'you'see'points'of'similarity?'What'new' ideas'about'creation'does'this'psalm'present?' * ' Psalm'104'draws'on'creation'imagery'from'ancient'Israel’s'neighbors'that'imagined' a'storm'god'(v.'2K4)'who'vanquishes'the'chaotic'primordial'waters'(vv.'6K7)'and' brings'nourishment'to'the'earth'(vv.'10K13).'From'the'psalmist’s'perspective,'it'is' Yahweh,'not'a'foreign'deity,'that'initiates'creation'and'sets'the'world'on'a'firm'and' unshakeable'foundation.'' ' Read*Psalms*139:7B17.*In'comparison'to'the'Psalm'104,'how'has'the'focus' of'this'creation'psalm'shifted?'' ' ' As'evident'in'the'two'passages'listed'above,'the'creation'psalms'extol'a'God'who'is' both'transcendent'and'immanent—that'is,'in'sovereign'control'of'the'universe'and' at'the'same'time,'involved'in'the'inner'workings'of'our'lives.'In'seasons'of' orientation'we'experience'both'of'these'aspects'of'God.' ' In'your'own'faith,'which'aspect'of'God'do'you'tend'to'place'more'emphasis' on:'transcendence'or'immanence?'Why?''

Seasons'of'orientation'are'characterized'by'orderliness,'goodness,'and'stability.'In' these'moments,'we'have'a'deep'and'abiding'sense'of'well'being.'Life'makes'sense.' There’s'balance'at'work'and'at'home.'Friends'are'plentiful'and'health'is'sound.''Our' faith'is'vibrant'and'growing.'To'quote'the'popular'hymn'of'old,'things'are'“well'with' the'soul.”' ' Are'you'currently'in'a'season'of'orientation?'If'not,'when'have'you' experienced'such'a'season?'Briefly'describe'what'was'happening'in'your'life' at'that'time'that'led'to'a'feeling'of'well'being'and'wholeness.' ' ' ' Psalms'of'orientation'are'the'least'frequently'occurring'type'in'the'Psalter.'They'are' marked'by'an'absence'of'tension'and'movement.'They'tend'to'affirm'God’s' providential'care'and'the'coherence'of'life.'These'psalms'frequently'speak'about'an' undisturbed'equilibrium'of'abundance'and'blessing.'Three'different'subKgenres'of' psalms'can'be'classified'as'psalms'of'orientation:' ' (1) Wisdom*psalms'[e.g.,'Pss'1,'37,'49,'73,'112,'119,'127,'133]' Offer'reflections'on'how'to'live'a'fruitful'life'before'God'through'the' guidance'of'wisdom'and'the'law'(torah)' '

(2) Songs*of*Zion'[e.g.,'Pss'46,'48,'76,'84,'87,'122]' Describe'God’s'abiding'presence'and'protective'power,'localized'in' Jerusalem,'God’s'holy'city' '

(3) Creation*psalms*[e.g.,'Pss'8,'19,'29,'65,'104,'139]'' Hails'God'as'the'sovereign'LORD'whose'majesty'is'visible'in'and'through' all'of'creation' ' In'the'following'sections,'we'will'examine'an'example'of'each'of'these'types'of' psalms'of'orientation.''


Introduction* The'Psalms'are'the'most'introspective'book'in'all'of'Scripture.'As'a'collection'of' prayers,'they'give'expression'to'a'wide'range'of'human'emotions,'from'anger'and' agony'to'joy'and'thanksgiving.'In'offering'us'revelation'“from'the'ground'up,”'the' words'of'the'Psalms'are'marked'by'a'certain'rawness,'vulnerability,'and'unmitigated' honesty.'The'psalmist'dares'to'offer'God'faith'unfiltered,'or'as'John'Calvin'once'put' it,'“an'anatomy'of'every'part'of'the'soul.”'For'this'reason,'the'Psalms'have'the' power'to'reflect'for'us'the'full'spectrum'of'our'own'faith'experiences—not'only'our' prayers'of'praise'but'also'the'difficult'things'we'have'to'say'to'God'about'grief,'loss,' doubt,'and'injustice.'The'Psalms'permit,'and'even'sanctify,'a'way'of'being'with'God' and'one'another'that'is'characterized'by'real'candor'and'authenticity.' ' Noting'how'the'Psalter'plumbs'the'depths'of'human'emotion,'Old'Testament'scholar' Walter'Brueggemann'suggests'that'individual'psalms'can'be'grouped'into'one'of' three'categories'based'on'their'function:'psalms'of'orientation,'disorientation,'and' reorientation.'These'three'functions'mirror'experiences'or'seasons'of'orientationK disorientationKreorientation'in'our'own'lives.'The'goal'of'this'series'is'to'examine' examples'of'these'three'functions'of'the'psalms'and'to'reflect'on'how'praying'these' psalms'in'the'corresponding'seasons'of'our'lives'can'lead'us'to'a'deeper,'more' honest'connection'to'God'and'one'another.' ' This'lesson'looks'at'the'use'and'function'of'psalms'of'orientation'in'our'lives'of'faith.' '

Lesson*at*a*glance* ' * * * *

!

I.****Seasons*and*Psalms*of*Orientation* II.***Wisdom*Psalms* III.**Psalms*of*Zion* IV.**Creation*Psalms* V.***Reflection*

!!!! !!

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V.*Reflection* ! '

During'seasons'of'orientation,'when'everything'seems'right'with'the'world'and'our' lives,'it'is'easy'to'experience'joy'and'contentment.'But'seasons'of'orientation'can' also'dull'our'spiritual'senses.'During'these'times,'we'can'begin'to'take'God’s' blessings'for'granted.'We'can'even'be'lulled'into'thinking'that'our'wellKbeing'is'' solely'a'product'of'our'hard'work'and'talents.'' ' How'would'praying'psalms'of'orientation'help'you'guard'against' complacency'or'selfKreliance'during'seasons'when'everything'seems'to'be' going'well?'' ' ' We'know'from'both'the'psalms'and'our'own'life'experiences'that'seasons'of' orientation'don’t'last'forever.'There'are'events'that'shatter'the'equilibrium'and' threaten'to'drive'us'to'the'edge'as'we'are'faced'with'the'reality'of'disorder,'loss,' and'disappointment.'' ' In'seasons'of'disorientation,'do'you'think'there'would'still'be'any'value'in' praying'psalms'of'orientation?'If'so,'why?'How'might'praying'psalms'of' orientation'“out'of'season”'be'helpful'for'us?''' ' '

Praying*the*Psalms*of*Orientation*this*Week * Monday'–'Psalm'19' Tuesday'–'Psalm'112' Wednesday'–'Psalm'87' Thursday'–'Psalm'8' Friday'–'Psalm'133' Saturday'–'Psalm'65' '


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Praying the Psalms Spring 2017

Sunday School Series

Like a Tree Transplanted:

P sal m s o f Or i e n t at i o n

Week 2

Profile for First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta

Week 2 -- Praying the Psalms: Psalms of Orientation Participant's Guide  

Week 2 -- Praying the Psalms: Psalms of Orientation Participant's Guide