Psalm 119 A Love Quartet

The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (64)
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. (88)
Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise. (41)
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” (82)
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. (124)

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (97)
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. (163)
I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. (113)
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. (174)
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (165)

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
And I will meditate on your statutes. (148)
For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (47)
I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. (131)
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. (127)

Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. (159)
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. (76)
Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. (132)
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (40)
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life. (149)

Psalm 119:105-112 Nun A prayer

Your word, O Lord, lights my way one step at a time. I am directed to your rules in worship. They fill my mouth and I rejoice to give you praise for all you have taught me. I need the light of your word because darkness surrounds me. I don’t forget your law which is always with me. I don’t leave the path you have laid out, even though adversaries fill it with traps. Whatever happens to me, I know the eternal inheritance you have waiting for me. Such promises fill me with joy. Joy that overflows in obedience. Keep me faithful to the end.

Psalm 119:97-104 Thoughts and a prayer

Mem maddens the meditator trying to draw thematic connections.  The middle verses are clear enough. Stanzas 98-100 all revolve around the thematic couplet of intellectual spiritual life and “greater than” comparisons. The poet is wiser than enemies, has more understanding than all his teachers, and understands more than his elders. All because God’s word is his meditation.

Stanzas 101-102 turn from contemplation to action. Both verses focus on the walk of living God’s word. Feet are held back from every evil way and God’s rules are not turned away from.

Verse 100 actually transitions from contemplation to action by mentioning “keep your word.” Verse 102 actually calls back to contemplation after action by saying “you have taught me.” So 98-102 is a tight 3+2 exposition of the value of knowing and doing God’s word.

Things get a little fuzzy at the edges though.

Not so much with the first verse of the octave. After proclaiming love for God’s law, the poet makes it “my meditation all the day.” This certainly fits well with 98-100 as “my meditation” is repeated in verse 99. As previously mentioned, 98-100 all focus on the mental aspect of approaching God’s word. So perhaps our 3+2 is now 4+2.

And really, the last verse isn’t too bad. Stanza 104 seems to tie both concentrations together. In the first line we have “understanding” just as we had twice in 98-100. In the second line hear “every false way” which seems a suitable echo to “every evil way” in verse 101. So again, contemplation and action.

But that pesky verse 103! It simply ruins the 4+4 we seem set up for:

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The sentiment surely matches the very first line of the octave- “Oh how I love your law!” The declaration of satisfaction in God’s words certainly seems more at home in the first half of the octave which focuses on the inner life. The metaphor is lovely and vivid, but it intrudes in the second half focusing on action.

Upon pondering it, however, I suppose the interruption is a polite one. We like things neat and clean. We like our lines of demarcation, our boxes, definitions, and boundaries. Mem will not let this comfort remain undisturbed. There is no neat and clean line between contemplation and action, doctrine and devotion. We can’t schedule separate blocks of time to respond to God’s word in these ways. Love and duty are always crowding in on one another. One intruding on the other- not to move it out of the way but to strengthen and give life.

I understand more than elders because I keep your word. I don’t follow evil so I keep your word. To love God’s law with your mind and heart is to hate everything against God’s law with your feet. There is One Body.

~~~

Fill my days with love and my ways with obedience. Your word makes me more. More understanding, more knowledge, more wisdom  than friend or foe. But your word cannot be bound it must go forth. Your commands keep me on the right path and keep me walking. They keep me so I can keep them.  More. Give me more. Give me more love for your words: sweeter than honey, better than pie and a perfectly cold glass of milk! You instruct my mind and guide my deeds.

Verse for Christmas: Augustine’s sermon 186

Word made flesh.
Before He was born
All power was his-
Power to remain in the heart of the Father;
Power to be made in the womb of his mother.
Not ceasing to be God
Not changed into flesh.
Word made flesh.
 
Son of God made Son of man.
Taking on something lesser
Not changing from something better
Taking what he was not
Not losing what he was.
 
He himself in form of God
Emptied himself in form of man.
Son of God made David’s son.
Sent by God
Born
Of a woman.
Son of God made son of man.
 
~~
Adapted from Augustine’s sermon 186

Augustine: Verse for Christmas; Sermon 185

Truth is sprung from the earth.
Truth which enfolds the world
The hands of the Virgin now hold.
Truth which the heavens cannot contain
There in a manger lain.

Righteousness looks down from heaven.
Right, so absent from man.
By his own hand, no commendation.
Believing in Him who was born
The only escape from due damnation.

Righteous by faith,
We have peace with God.
In the kiss of righteous peace
The Son of God made man
That men be made sons of God.

~~~
In sermon 185 Augustine meditates on Psalm 85:11, “Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” This verse is used frequently in Augustine’s Christmas sermons. It vies with a portion of Isaiah 53:8, “Who shall declare his generation;” for place of prominence. In this sermon, Augustine ties Ps. 85:11 with Romans 5:1 using Psalm 85:10. Once made, the connection seems easy and obvious. But only a mind soaked in Scripture would seem likely to make it. It is one reason I marvel at reading the fathers: they had no concordance or computer; only their memory and the Spirit. And their grasp of Scripture shames me.

Verse for Christmas: from Augustine’s sermon 184

Wisdom, let us attend.
Mourn, o proud, seeking the lofty you spurn the lowly
Forgetting it is these that dwell with the Holy.

God of God remaining what He always was
Takes to Himself what we are
Leaving the Father, journeys to country far.

Heaven and angels chant, “He is born!”
Holding all things together by powerful word
His first cries are scarcely heard.

O wondrous humility,
The greatness of God made small.
Christ comes down to save from the fall.

 

 

Augustine Verse for Christmas: Sermon 140

Open our hearts!
Begotten of the Father without time
The Son is made of the Virgin in time
Begotten transcending time
Born filling time
Open our hearts to wonder!

Open our hearts!
Born of the Father, our Maker
Born of the Virgin, our re-Maker
Born of the Father that we might be
Born of Mary that we might not be lost
Open our hearts to praise!

Open our hearts!
God the Father never without the Son
Son born, not made, eternally begotten One
Source with the Father, equality with the Son
God my Father, I his Son, are One
Open our hearts to believe!

~~
From Sermon 140 of Augustine. There is uncertainty about whether this was actually a Christmas sermon-i.e. a sermon preached at Christmas; but the Incarnation is obviously addressed.

Augustine: Verse for Christmas; sermon 196. A Christmas poem for daughters

Rejoice, daughter, God is born for you!
Marvel, daughter, God is born for you!
Eternally begotten without a beginning-
Bow in awe, daughter,
God is born for you!

Whether virgin, wedded, or widowed;
He who was in the beginning
Is born for you.

The angel announces
Mary believes
A virgin conceives
God is born for you.

Once barren bride
Carries the prophet
Hails the savior!
God is born for you.

With tears and fastings
A widow of four-score and four
Greets the groom of all the faithful
God is born for you.

He took to Himself what He was not
He remained what He was.
Born in a hovel
Wrapped in cloths
For who?

Word speaking from the Father
Cries wordlessly at His mother
Eternal wisdom grows in knowledge
To suffer
To die
To rise
For who?

Who shall declare His generation?
The Word in the beginning
Is born
Is born, my daughter,
For you.

~~~
Sermon 196 is Augustine’s second Christmas sermon particularly suited to the women in the congregation: the first, being sermon 191.

As a dad with 5 daughters, I appreciate this. As someone who has preached a few sermons, I am admonished by it. Aside from Mother’s Day, there seems to be little direct address to women in most sermons. Augustine, of course, mentions Mary in nearly every Christmas sermon. But merely talking about a woman, even the Virgin, is not enough. Augustine speaks to women: he addresses the birth of Christ to women. However you understand Paul’s command that women are to be silent in the church, it is not a command that they are to be forgotten.

Augustine: Verse for Christmas; Sermon 195

Who shall declare his generation?
Which generation to declare?
The generation of One never not born,
Eternal with the Father?
The generation of One born,
Who made His mother?
How is God born of God
With no increase of Gods?
How is God born of woman
With no aid of man?

Born of the Father,
He creates His mother.
Born of a mother,
He glorifies His Father.
Never born by woman- the eternal Son;
Without embrace from man- born by woman.

Who shall declare His generation?
Maker of the world, comes into the world.
Never absent in power, present in flesh.
Coming in the flesh to cleanse our flesh.
Creator come to heal the world.
Who shall declare his generation?

Giant in strength
Terrible in love
Serene in severity
Remaining at the Father’s side,
Filling His mother’s womb.

Who shall declare his generation?
Eternal One. Born in time.