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a Reading for Worship: The Nearby Faraway God of the Psalms

Without ever sitting down and saying it out loud, many of us have decided we need to censor the Bible.  In our admirable desire to make worship joyful, we end up making it inauthentic.  No where is this clearer than in what passages we choose from the Psalms as lyrics in our songs or passages for worship.

As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O Lord is a beautiful thought carried on a sweet melody.  But, we stop singing Psalm 42 just before the more disturbing, "My tears have been my food day and night, while others mock me all day long saying, 'Where is your God?'"

Not every Sunday can be a mountaintop.  Not every prayer has to be a celebration of what God has been doing in our lives.  
The Bible, particularly the book of Psalms, give a more authentic road map for our spiritual journey.  People sing to God in joy, in confusion, in victory, and in defeat.  Worship can be born out of joyful confidence, sure.  Worship can also come out of the shattered leftovers when our certainty of what God will do crashes against the reality of what God actually did.

Here is a two-person reading from Psalms.  The two begin reading from opposite sides of the stage.  One is joyful, the other discouraged.  As they read, they move toward the center.  As the familiar phrases of the twenty-third Psalm begin, they are standing side by side.  The phrases move from mountain to valley, back and forth.  Finally, with all questions resolved in the presence of God, the last of the verses is read together.

Song: "Blessed Be Your Name"

Antiphonal Readings from the Psalms

Clap your hands, all you nations;
       Shout to God with cries of joy!
How awesome is the Lord Most High,
       the great King over all the earth!
Psalm 47:1,2

Will the Lord reject us forever?
       Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
       Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Psalm 77:7-9a

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
       Serve the Lord with gladness;
       come before him with joyful songs.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
       and his courts with praise;
       give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 11:1-2,4

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
       while in a foreign land?
Psalm 137:4

God is our refuge and strength
       an ever present help in trouble
Psalm 46:1

How long, O Lord?  Will you hide yourself forever?
       How long will your wrath burn like fire?
O Lord, where is your former great love,
       which in your faithfulness you swore to David
Psalm 89:46,49

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music!
Psalm 98:4

Save me, O God,
       for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths
       where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters
       The floods engulf me!
I am worn out calling for help
       my throat is parched
My eyes fail,
       Looking for my God
Psalm 69:1-3

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;
       I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
For you have upheld my right and my cause!
Psalm 9:1-2,4

Scorn has broken my heart
       and has left me helpless
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
       for comforters, but I found none.
Psalm 69:20

He makes me lie down in green pastures
Psalm 23:2

Even though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death
Psalm 23:4

He leads me beside quiet waters
Psalm 23:2

I will fear no evil, for you are with me
Psalm 23:4

He restores my soul
Psalm 23:3

Your rod and your staff
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

He guides me in paths of righteousness
       for his name's sake
Psalm 23:3

You prepare a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies
Psalm 23:5

You anoint my head with oil
Psalm 23:5

my cup overflows
Psalm 23:5


Reprise "Blessed Be the Name" emphasizing a sense of resolve and celebration.

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