Imprecatory Psalms

A few of my friends have asked me why I have not preached any of the “imprecatory psalms” in the current preaching series at King of Glory Lutheran during the early months of 2018.  I’m surprised that I have been asked this a few times.  I even asked myself this question when laying out the Psalms series.  Yes, I chose not to include one or a few of these psalms in the list of psalms to preach.  There were just too many other psalms that I wanted to preach.  I did want this series to have a more “positive” tone about it, so the imprecatory psalms were squeezed out.  But, today, they get a blog post.  

Before I get any further, we need to know what we are talking about here.  What is an “imprecatory psalm”? Thanks for asking.  The word “imprecatory” means to call down curses (or evil) on another person.  The “imprecatory psalms” are a handful of psalms that express curses upon enemies.  They are Psalm 35, 55, 59, 69, 79, 109, and 137. Here’s a sample that leads us to raise our eyebrows: “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:8-9).  The imprecatory psalms contain verses like this.  The psalmist feels free to cry out for the destruction of their enemies or the enemies of God. 

Why are they included in the Bible?  What benefit can they be for us? After all, Jesus taught, “Love your enemies.” How could it be loving to call down curses on a person?
One of the things I love most about the imprecatory psalms is that they dispel the Christianese notion of niceness.  “Be nice” we are told by well-meaning people in authority positions. When we are told to “be nice” we might bottle up that anger or wrath that we feel is necessary to be poured out on the one who has hurt us.   
The rawness, the realness, and the ragged emotions that come out of imprecatory psalms show us that God knows we feel hurt, scarred, and angry when we are sinned against.  God cares deeply about injustice.  We learn from imprecatory psalms that life is messy, life hurts, and people do bad stuff against us, even as we also sin against others.  We can admit that and not pretend it doesn’t happen. 

Yet, there is something that’s different about the imprecatory psalms compared to a general calling down of curses on others.  God is firmly in the picture in the imprecatory psalms.  The psalmist is directing this cursing in the direction of God, pleading for Him to bring justice.  We should never curse out a fellow person, even if they deserve it.  When we are honest with our hurt, we cry out to God to do something about it.  He will.  He will make all things right.  If we in our own power call down curses on others or take it upon ourselves to bring justice, we won’t carry it out to the fullest extent.  But God does.  Thankfully.  As verse 22 in the imprecatory Psalm 55 reminds us, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”  And, hey, it might be helpful for you to read one of the imprecatory psalms on a day when you have been hurt by someone.  It will, at least, force you to cry out to God in your hurt. 

Good Grief, Lent is Almost Here

The season of Lent is quickly approaching.  I really enjoy our Wednesday night Lenten services.  Historically, these times have offered an opportunity for special teaching, or catechesis.  Each year a different topic has been chosen to dive into as we go through this time leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  This year, 2018, I’d like us to explore the topic of grief.  Over the past few years at King of Glory Lutheran we have had a number of loved ones die, both those that were part of our church and also those who were family and friends.  In one way or another, each one of us is touched by grief.  

The theme of our Lenten services this year is “Grief: An Uninvited Guest.”  Grief is just that, an uninvited guest.  When Theresa and I were starting to have sparks fly between us before we were married, I came with a group of friends to Theresa’s parents house in Wisconsin.  At the end of the night, we were saying goodbye to Theresa’s parents.  I said to Theresa’s dad, “Thanks for having me here tonight.”  He replied in a dead-pan voice, “I didn’t invite you here.” Grief, as personified, shows up at our house when we least expect it, uninvited.  It might slowly creep into your house.  Either way, grief is a guest that we don’t particularly enjoy.  Yet, it is there.  How should we handle it?  

Lent, in a way, is a season of death.  In the church year it is set aside as a time of reflection, repentance, and further learning as we approach the marking of Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday and as we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead on Easter Sunday.  We will take these weeks to examine Scripture that teaches us about grief.  We will be shown examples of how some biblical characters handled grief.  Through it all, we will be pointed to Jesus Christ, who has conquered death, hell, and the devil through His death and resurrection.  

Please mark your calendars for the six weeks of Lent.  It’s a bit odd that Ash Wednesday (the first Wednesday in Lent) happens to land this year on Valentine’s Day, February 14th.  Come on out to church these nights.  We’ll start at 7:00 pm each Wednesday and enjoy a modified worship service, complete with singing the rich, somber tones of Lenten hymns.  There might even be a special music piece!  Please bring a friend, especially one that might benefit from learning more about grief.  

-Pastor Brett

Singing in the New Year

Yes, that title is an attempt to make a play on words with the phrase "ringing in the new year."  New Year's Eve is just around the corner.  And as we think about new year's resolutions, gym memberships, the post-holidays letdown, I am thinking about what I'm going to be preaching on next. 

Here at King of Glory we enjoy solid biblical preaching.  And I love to do my best to deliver it! I'm delighted to announce the new sermon series.  On Sunday, December 31st I will begin a sermon series through the book of Psalms!  You might be thinking: that will take a long time to get through all 150 chapters in that book.  I thought that too.  Instead of walking through each of the chapters, I hope to give you a selection of some of the "classic" psalms, somewhat like the "greatest hits" album that you'd expect from your favorite musician.  

As we "sing" along with the psalmists, we will experience the joys and sorrow of life lived as those who walk by faith.  I invite you to shuffle up to the speakers and take in the tones and tunes of the psalms.  Your life will be enriched.  

What are some of your favorite psalms? 

in Christ, Pr Brett