1 Praise the LORD! Extol his goodness! for his love endures always. 2 Who can tell his mighty actions, or in full declare his praise? 3 Blessed are those whose way is right, acting justly in his sight.
4 When you show your people favour, then, O LORD, remember me. Help me when you come to save them; 5 let me know prosperity— Joyful with your chosen race, joining them in giving praise.
6 We have sinned, just like our fathers; we have done what was not right. 7 When our fathers were in Egypt they despised your deeds of might. All your mercies they ignored— at the Red Sea spurned the LORD.
8 Yet for his name’s sake he saved them and revealed his mighty hand. 9 By his word the Sea he parted, led them through as on dry land— 10 From the hand of foes set free, rescued from the enemy.
11 Then their adversaries foundered; not a single one survived. 12 So the people sang his praises, and his promises believed; 13 But his works they soon forgot, and his counsel set at nought.
14 In the desert they surrendered to their unremitting greed; In the wasteland they provoked him, craving meat they did not need. 15 So he gave them what they sought, but on them disease he brought.
16 In the camp they envied Moses, Aaron too—God’s priest was he. 17 Earth was split and swallowed Dathan and Abiram’s company; 18 There they fell, consumed by flame— those who had abused God’s name.
19 Then they made a calf at Horeb— served an idol cast in clay; 20 They exchanged their highest Glory for a bull that feeds on hay. 21 God their saviour they forgot, who for them great things had wrought.
The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest various tunes for this but as it is set to an unusual meter – 878777 – it’s not been possible to find any recordings.
50 years ago today, at 02:56:15, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, stepping down from Apollo Lunar Module Eagle, saying:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Those words and the grainy images of ‘dad-like dancing’ in the dark, are embedded in my memory.
The Apollo space missions formed part of the backdrop to my childhood, which I avidly followed in those black and white TV days, soaking up the plethora of facts streaming from Houston. Whilst much detail has receded from my memory, the sense of wonder has not. From time to time I still look up at the moon, remember, and wonder.
Remembering and wondering are intrinsic to the fabric of faith. But we are not always good at remembering the Biblical stories, nor feeling wonder in response to acts of God. Today’s Psalm rues that on the journey to the Promised Land, people again and again forgot God. Re-read the passage and note the times the people ignored or forgot.
Since the 1960s space-age, there has been a drop in church attendance, and we may lament the loss of the faith narrative, both Biblical stories and the deep truths that they convey. There is a remnant of remembrance and wonder at Christmas, but the heart of the relationship between God, people and our place on earth, including our origins, purpose and destiny, has diminished. It is a communal loss.
I wonder what you cherish of the faith stories, and why?
I wonder how we may bring alive such stories in our post space-age world?
Whether you remember or forget, turn to verse 44 onwards and you’ll find a testimony and an assurance that God never forgets us. That is truly to wonder at. It may even leave us feeling over the moon!
If I look up on a clear, dark night and wonder at the heavenly moon-lit, star-spangled sky; may I too look with insight in our earthy oft dark world, see Christ’s presence of light, wonder at your deeds and love, and reflect them through my life. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr David Pickering, Member Rutherglen URC, Moderator National Synod of Scotland.