< November 25, 2012 >

Commentary on Psalm 93

 

This brief, straightforward psalm is teed up for your Christ the King-themed sermon. Psalm 93 begins by proclaiming that "the Lord is king" (Hebrew: YHWH melek).

The psalm has all the trappings of royal imagery: robes, majesty, thrones, and decrees. There’s definitely a creation angle in the first two verses. The Lord is praised for being robed in majesty -- that is, in the splendor of the creation -- just as the Lord is praised for establishing the creation (the world) in the first place.

The creation angle is maintained in the following verses, focusing especially on the gift of water in all its noisy abundance. Consider how these images swell and crest and crash:

 * The floods have lifted up their voice

 * The floods lift up their roaring

 * More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters

 * More majestic than waves of the sea…

Insert obvious connection to the Baptismal rite’s “Flood Prayer” here. No, really, do it. We’ll wait. Or, if you don’t want to be that obvious -- that is, if you’d prefer to avoid making the connection of all that water with the promises of baptism -- then you can simply note that when the psalmist was looking for a metaphor for divine majesty, s/he landed on H2O. Yes, that basic element that makes up 70% of the earth’s surface and a similar percentage of the human body. Without H2O, there’d be no life on the planet -- duh!

Slightly more noteworthy than the fact that the psalm features water as the allegorical epitome of the Lord’s greatness is the fact that the psalm proclaims loud water in particular. The psalmist had almost certainly been to the beach on a Big Surf day. If you’ve ever stood on the shoreline meditating on the hugeness of the water as the waves pounded the shore, then you can probably relate to what was in the psalmist’s mind. Even the most poetry-averse person can understand that the big, vast, loudness of the ocean points to the mighty work of a Lord who is big, vast, and loud.

The big, vast, loudness of God has been a theme since, I suppose, Zeus was tossing bolts from atop Mt. Olympus. When the people of Israel are camped beneath Mt. Sinai and Moses is getting that Decalogue, there’s theological thunder rolling the whole time -- so much so that the people say to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:19). 

So, yeah, overwhelmingly loud noise and divine majesty often go hand in hand. That’s why they toot a huge horn when the queen or king enters the room. That’s why, in the Book of Revelation, there’s trumpet sound all over, but especially when the seven angels are revealing the hidden things of God in Christ. Royalty and amplifiers turned up to 11 and loud crashing waves and the majesty of the Lord are all of a piece, it would seem.

Contrast all the regal decibels with the one quietly telling Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, the Gospel appointed for the day). Or “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (verse 37). There’s irony there, right there, where Jesus talks about those who listen to his voice. Within hours that very voice would rasp out the words, “It is finished,” and then fall silent.

Christ the King Sunday is full of possibility when it comes to contrasting what we think of as divine and what we get in Jesus: Deus absconditus sub contrario = God hidden under the sign of the opposite. Or perhaps here we can say “under the sound of the opposite.” It’s a theology of the cross kind of day, so while you can go ahead and begin with Psalm 93 and the notion of an almighty God girded in oceanic loudness, you ought not to end there.