Lectionary Reflection for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 149:

Psalm 149, the fifth of six praise psalms that conclude the Psalter, is a song of praise that envisions God’s people as both those who sing praise in public worship (v. 1) and those who conduct warfare in the name of justice and covenantal commitment to God (vv. 5-9).

The psalm serves to help us enter into the experience of the people of Israel and the way in which they perceived an intimate relationship between praise and fighting just and holy wars.

As with Ps. 44, Christian responses to the battle imagery vary widely. Nearly every tradition laments the way this psalm has been misused to justify crusades and misguided acts of terror and warfare.

Many traditions appropriate this text primarily with reference to spiritual, not military, warfare. In traditions that affirm the legitimacy of warfare in some contexts, the psalm is a prophetic call to ensure that every military action is done in light of and in praise for God’s longing for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

Pacifist traditions are more inclined to see the psalm as an example of OT experience that is challenged by the NT’s call for peacemaking and reconciliation.

It is, then, a psalm to handle with great care. It is also a psalm that can provoke instructive conversations about the nature of faithful obedience in a world of injustice.

Prayer for reflection:

Sovereign God,
we dance and sing for joy because you have called us to be your people
and have given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Armor us with his grace and embolden us with the Spirit’s power,
so that we may faithfully struggle for peace and justice everywhere. Amen.

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