How often do we ourselves “shout for joy” to God? This is one of the questions we might ask ourselves as we are studying Psalm 100 for Sunday, October 3 – World Communion Sunday, for people who pay attention to those ecclesial things. [Here’s some history, and here’s a critique of the World Communion Sunday idea, along with a wonderful poem.] Some notes on Psalm 100 are here. Here are a few additional questions we might want to think about or discuss in class:
Psalm 100 has the form of a “psalm of praise,” which consists of an invitation to praise the HOLY ONE of Israel, and then a presentation of the reason or reasons for that praise.
What do we hear as the “invitation to praise”? What are the listeners invited to do, specifically? [Here, we should probably focus on the verbs, and what actions they call people to perform.]
[More personal] How often would we say we ourselves are invited to perform these actions? How often would we say we perform these actions?
Do we ever perform these actions in other contexts? For instance, when do we “shout for joy” – or when do we hear other people shout for joy? [I myself am thinking of The Price is Right, of sporting events, and of finally finding some sentence in a book that I was sure was in there somewhere …]
Would we ourselves ever perform the same action in church? When? Why? Or if not, why not – what holds us back, or what gets in the way?
We could do this exercise in relation to all of the verbs: “serving,” “coming into the presence of,” “knowing” – or, more specifically, “knowing that YHWH is God.”
What do we hear as the “reason for praise”? What image or images of God does that reason or those reasons present?
Does this give us any new or different reasons for praising God, or reinforce reasons we have for praising God? Or, do we have reservations about any of these reasons? What are they? In other words – how close do we feel to the Psalmist’s sense of the reason or reasons for praising God? What would need to change to bring us closer to the Psalmist, do we think?
Psalm 100 is a work of poetry. Do we notice how its poetic quality affects us? How?
[We might get a clearer idea of this if we tried to translate the things the Psalmist says to us, and about God, into something more like prose. E.g., the first line might become, in prose, “All of the people who live in the land of Israel, or even all people everywhere, are urged to shout for joy to the Holy God of Israel.” And then compare the effect on us as readers or listeners. That might be interesting to do.]
We know the psalms were set to music; we probably know from experience that sometimes songs “get stuck in our heads”; and we also think we know that Biblical material was often meant to be meditated on – that is, to be “stuck in our heads” on purpose, and repeated over and over.
What would happen if we did that with this psalm, do we suppose? What happens if we try “meditating” on a verse of the psalm, or even the entire (short) psalm? What do we notice about that?
Overall, our engagement with this psalm, and all the psalms in the next several weeks, seem to invite us to let the psalms work their way into our consciousness, and influence our way of worshipping God. Let’s pay attention to that as we study this psalm.
Image: “Figures in Conversation – Étaples,” Leslie Hunter, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons