Bishop Mary Glasspool on “Psalm One”

We are looking forward to welcoming Bishop Mary Glasspool to All Saints on Saturday, May 16th for Confirmation Day. Reposting here the reflection she wrote for this week’s Episcopal News Weekly as some great food for thought. Enjoy!

Bishop GlasspoolIn the Revised Common Lectionary, the psalm for the seventh Sunday of Easter is Psalm 1. It is no accident that Psalm 1 is first in the Book of Psalms. Psalm 1 is really a complex Beatitude — a description of the one who is blessed. “Blessed are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful! Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night.” A simpler version of this beatitude is “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord.”

The first psalm is both an introduction and an invitation to the rest of the book. It is like a template, showing a basic pattern of the psalms. And the psalm says something like this: There are two ways you can go in life. You can travel the way of the wicked. Or you can travel the way of the righteous.

If you want to travel the way of the wicked, start by being scornful. Never pass up an opportunity to criticize. There are plenty of opportunities for this — there’s a lot wrong in this world. You can take delight in the failures and shortcomings of your neighbors. And you can always begin by looking for something that is negative. (More on the ways of the wicked later on in the Book of Psalms.)

However, if you would prefer to travel the way of the righteous, you can begin by loving the law of God — by loving it so much that you think about it all the time, and use every opportunity to look for something in God’s world to affirm — to say “Amen!” to, to praise, to delight in. These opportunities abound — and the one who praises God in this way will bear lots of fruit.

And what is the “law of the Lord”? The law of the Lord is the “torah” — a word that means, simply, “teaching.” I used to think that “Torah” referred exclusively to the first five books of the Bible — the “Pentateuch.” But that is “torah” defined in its narrowest sense.

“Torah,” for Jewish people, refers to the whole Bible, the oral law, and all of Jewish culture and teaching. “Torah” contains not only laws, but also history, legend, folklore, and moral and ethical teachings. Study of Torah has always been considered a fundamental, lifelong obligation for Jews; and historians view it as the source of Jewish spiritual strength and survival.

What we are to delight in, and meditate on day and night, is the Lord’s teaching — all of it — the whole body of tradition through which instruction in the way and will of the Lord is given. This is how wisdom for the living of life can be gained. It is the medium from which one can learn the way and will of the Lord and store up that learning in one’s heart so that it shapes the structure of consciousness. Torah is the cause of delight, not because it is an available instrument of self-righteousness, material for a program of self-justification, but because the Lord reaches, touches, and shapes the human soul through it. For this psalm, torah is a means of grace.

So — What can we affirm today?
What makes your heart sing, and your voice offer praise to God?
What can we say a ringing “Amen” to? Yes. Yes! YES! ?

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