Great Themes of Scripture: Hebrew Bible: Weekly Summary — Center for Action and Contemplation
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Great Themes of Scripture: Hebrew Bible: Weekly Summary

Great Themes of Scripture: Hebrew Bible

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Week Twenty-Six Summary and Practice

Sunday, June 27—Friday, July 2, 2021

Sunday
When we have an understanding of the great themes of Scripture, the whole book from Genesis to Revelation, we see it as communicating a pattern to humanity. The message is this: You are loved. You are unique. You are free. You are on the way. You are going somewhere. Your life has meaning.

Monday
Perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind when reading the first chapters of Genesis is that it is written not about the past but about the perennial present, the present that is always with us.

Tuesday
Israel is, as it were, humanity personified, and so what happened to Israel is what happens to everyone who sets out on the journey of faith.

Wednesday
God has communicated in a million ways that “I am your power,” but we do not believe and trust what we cannot see or prove. Instead, we bow down to lesser kings (like institutions, nations, wars, ideologies, etc.) that we can see, even when they serve us quite poorly.

Thursday
Job has experienced life’s meaninglessness. Yet in the experience of God he has found meaning, he has touched on something Real, something that seems capable of going on forever.

Friday
God’s chosenness is for the sake of communicating chosenness to everybody else!

 

Praying the Psalms

Christians tend to read much of the Hebrew Scriptures as a history book, but I hope this week’s meditations provided a glimpse into how much more they have to offer us. They are not merely descriptions of events that happened long ago, but an ongoing revelation of what God is doing today—not only in other people but in us! Perhaps no book is more accessible in this way than the Psalms, which reflect the fullness of the human experience—celebration and sorrow, praise and lament—on a personal and collective scale. Author Nan Merrill created a modern text based on the Hebrew Psalms, not a direct translation but as a way for us to access the depth of their beauty and emotion. She hopes that praying them can serve as a “loving movement toward engendering peace, harmony, and healing in our wounded world.” [1] She writes:

Who among us has not yearned TO KNOW the Unknowable? . . .

The Psalms have ever been a response to these deep yearnings: cries of the soul . . . songs of surrender . . . paeans of praise. . . . Affirming the life-giving fruits of love and acknowledging the isolation and loneliness of those separated from Love, may serve to awaken the heart to move toward wholeness and holiness. [2]

I invite you to pray with Merrill’s interpretation of Psalm 60 today:

Psalm 60

O Beloved, why do I believe that
I can separate myself
from You, feeling like
an alien in a foreign land?
O, that I might return to
the Light.
You know how I tremble with fear;
help me to break down the walls,
to let go of illusions, for
I want to stand tall.
You have allowed me to suffer
hard things;
You have not prevented my
downfall.
You, who are Love, gave me leeway
to choose,
to wander far from home.

O my Beloved, be gracious unto me,
welcome me back into new life,
hear my prayer!

The Comforter came to me:
“With joy are you ever at home
in my Heart,
as I have always lived in yours.
You are mine; I belong to you;
the broken are blessed with
humility,
the wayward who turn back
walk with me as love,
walk with me knowing Love.
Let your mind be guided by truth,
your heart informed by wisdom;
then will you know peace and joy.”

Who will enter the Heart of Love?
Who will open their hearts and
know the Beloved?
Who dares to face their fears, to
break down the prison walls,
to walk with Love?
O grant us help to answer the call,
strengthen us with pure resolve!
With the Beloved we shall triumph;
with Love we shall be free! [3]

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

References:
[1] Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, 10th anniv. ed.  (Continuum: 2007), x. Used with permission.

[2] Merrill, Psalms for Praying, ix.

[3] Merrill, Psalms for Praying, 111–112.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Reflections II (detail), 2020, photograph, Albuquerque.
Image inspiration: These intertwined branches speak of the braided nature of biblical themes: mystery, hope, possibility, resilience, vulnerability and strength. Although these leaves have seen better days, clouds carry hope for rain.
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