eNewsletter Feature Story – Week of August 15 thru August 21, 2021

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton,
FPCE senior pastor.

Dear friends,

How is your soul doing?

If I were a betting man, I would wager this is a question almost nobody asks, and a question we rarely ponder. Instead, we regularly see, hear, and feel massive worldly concerns that settle and clog our souls, leaving us sad and low in energy.

These are tough times. Parents are bewildered about sending their kids to school because of inconsistent messaging from our health professionals about necessity of mask-wearing. (Health professionals, themselves, are now regularly puzzled and burdened with a tough, ever-mutating viral foe.)  Depending on who you read, unless the highly transmissible Delta C19 variant is soon contained, many health experts predict a fourth wave of infections. What will this mean for businesses and our ability to avoid another major shutdown? How much more dire illness, death, homelessness, and social dislocation will we be forced to endure?

So, let me ask the question again: How is your soul? What are you doing to care for and strengthen your soul? Let me suggest one of the best ways to weather these deeply challenging times. I’ll hope it will be music to your soul.

Did you know that the traditional Presbyterian Blue Hymnal located throughout our sanctuary and chapel has all 150 Psalms set to music?

Did you know that the Psalms were the divinely inspired hymnbook for the public worship of God in ancient Israel (1 Chronicles 16:8–36)? Because Psalms originally were not simply read but sung aloud, they penetrated the minds and imaginations of the people as only music can do.

They so saturated the heart of the average person of that age that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was only natural that the crowd would spontaneously greet him by singing out a line from a Psalm (Mark 11:9; Psalm 118:26).

Did you know that the early Christians, many of them steeped in Jewish tradition, sang and prayed the Psalms as well (Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:26)? (Jews still sing their Torah portions in Hebrew to this day!)  So much so that when St. Benedict formed his monasteries, he directed that the Psalms all be sung, read, and prayed at least once a week.

Did you know that the Psalms served as the most familiar part of the Bible for most Christians throughout Medieval times? The Psalter was the only part of the Bible a lay Christian was likely to own.

At the time of the Reformation, the Psalms played a major role in the reform of the church. Luther, Calvin, and other reformers prescribed the Psalms as the main diet of song for the people of God.

They believed that the Psalms should be used and reused in every Christian’s daily private approach to God and in public worship. In that frame of mind, we are not simply to read Psalms — we are to be immersed in them so they profoundly shape how we relate to God.

St. Athanasius said it best: “Whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book [the Psalms] you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you . . . learn the way to remedy your ill.” Every situation in life is represented in the book of Psalms. Psalms anticipate and train you for every possible spiritual, social, and emotional condition — they show you what the dangers are, what you should keep in mind, what your attitude should be, how to talk to God about it, and how to get from God the help you need. “They put their undeviating understanding of the greatness of the Lord alongside our situations, so that we may have a due sense of the correct proportion of things.” (see Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2015, p. 97).

So, yes, this is another of Pastor Ray’s shameless plugs encouraging you to read, pray, sing, and immerse your heart in the Psalms for the uncertain days ahead.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

    Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

    for I will yet praise him,

    my Savior, and my God.

(Psalm 42:11)

Finding ways to nurture my soul,

Pastor Ray Hylton

Photo by Thomas Shakey

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