Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

This excerpt comes from Psalms 1-50 (BTCB) by Ellen Charry, commenting on Psalm 19:

Psalm 19 hopes to attract us to the glory of God in stages. Beginning with the Creator (perhaps because contemplating God as Creator is relatively easy), the psalmist lures us to consider the wisdom of God the legislator as he carries us into deeper water. His final step is meant to stir up longing to become the beautifully pure self that God deserves from those on whom he lavishes such care and effort.

God’s teaching (torah) is perfect (19:7), and the speaker knows that genuine reverence for God is pure (19:9). Lured as he is, the speaker wants to be blameless, and cleansed of small hidden faults (19:12) as well as great transgressions (19:13). Psalm 19 aims for a person’s best self in the hope that she will enlist as one of God’s radiant servants.

As stirring as the poetry and imagery of this psalm are, perhaps its greatest appeal comes from its unfeigned candor. Moral arousal, however necessary, will not suffice. More than volunteering is needed. God must make one more push for his people—this time not in a public way, as with the heavenly bodies and the commandments, but on a deeply personal level. God must protect the would-be servant from going astray and accept the meditation of her heart that she might find acceptance.

The point is not, however, that one should think of oneself as a dirty mop that needs to be cleansed in a bucket of water and wrung dry of its dirt. Thinking of oneself as a mop besotted with dirty water from cleaning the floor betrays both the beauty of the commandments (the water that washes us) and the beautiful self whose heart rejoices in God’s ways. Psalm 19 has something else in mind. While it concludes on a suitably humble note, it calls us to envision ourselves as partakers of the glory of God—proclaimed by the sun as much as by torah—so that we might triumph as God’s faithful servants.

©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.