Truth in Two Lines

Readings: Psalm 124; Genesis 8:1-19; Romans 6:1-11

If the Lord had not been on our side, *

let Israel now say;

If the Lord had not been on our side, *

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive *

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters *

have gone right over us.

Blessed be the Lord! *

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord, *

the maker of heaven and earth. [Psalm 124, NRSV]

Those of you who love the office of Compline as I do will recognize verse 8 of Psalm 124 in the opening versicle and response;

Officiant: Our help is in the Name of the Lord;

People: The maker of heaven and earth.

It’s all right there, isn’t it? In the liturgy designed by John Calvin for use in his churches at Strasburg and Geneva, the services began with this versicle and response. Calvin chose it because he understood that in these two brief lines, the truth about the gathered community is summed up perhaps better than any one sentence could possibly do. (1)

The Psalm itself is broken into three parts: a recollection of God’s faithful deliverance in the past, the praise of the people for that deliverance, and a corporate declaration of trust. There is only one way a Psalm like this gets written, and that is as a reflection of a journey with God over time, lots of time. And that is the beauty of it for us. Through the toils and tests of our lives and the life of our community we see only a speck, an infinitesimal sample of what the Almighty knows and has seen. Yet we can close our eyes at the end of a long day, before we go off to the unknown world of sleep and in that moment claim words of truth that only an eternal perspective can fully grasp. It’s all right there, isn’t it? The content of our faith and our lives is right there in these simple words of trust. May they be your guiding light during this beautiful, dark season of Advent.

(1 James L. Mays, InterpretationPsalms, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1994, p. 397)

Offered by Dave Fredrickson, spiritual director and pastor, walking home to Bethlehem.

[Rowhouse, 2018-2019, by Colin Fredrickson]

2 thoughts on “Truth in Two Lines

  1. Johnna Post author

    Thanks, Dave. It’s wonderful to think that it’s a dialogue, not a monologue, that expresses the truth of our faith. peace, Johnna

    1. Robin Nielsen

      During our church services at Christ Church, I always look forward to the Psalms. Although I enjoy when we pray the psalm in unison, I especially love the “call and response” when we are asked by the reader to break at the asterisk. I love how it seems to flow like a poem or song. Over the years growing with my knowledge and awareness, I have come to appreciate that lovely part of the bible. ~ Robin


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