Reformation Day 2011

“Come, let us sing a Psalm, and drive away the devil.” (Luther)

I have been duly urged on for a Reformation Day post for this year, so let me get this in before the day concludes!

My family does make a big deal each year about Reformation Day, and I always take time at the beginning of Greek class on this day to note how Luther’s breakthrough came through contemplating the Greek text. There is so much for us to remember and give thanks for stemming from the Reformation.

I have been delayed in commenting today because I am just at the end of completing a book on the Psalms and how they should inform and shape our worship. This is a central Reformation theme. One thing the Reformation reclaimed was the importance of congregational singing. Rather than listening to professionals “worship” in a language unknown to the congregation, the Reformers sought to bring the people once again into the act of worship. If we allow our worship today to become an “act” to be watched from the pew then we have reverted and lost our Reformation birthright.

Central in this effort to re-shape worship was the use of the Psalms. Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” is drawn from Psalm 46. Calvin worked himself on putting the Psalms directly into metered forms for singing and enlisted Theodore Beza and Clement Marot (one of the best musicians of the day) in this task. As pastors they knew the importance of their people knowing the Psalms that they might shape and inform both praying and singing. It was Luther who said, “Come, let us sing a Psalm, and drive away the devil.”

Below are comments from Luther and Calvin on the value of the Psalms. Let us consider whether we value the Psalms in this way today. How might we begin to incorporate the Psalms into our own, personal praying each day, into our singing as a family & a church. This use of the Psalms is one of the treasures of the church, appreciated in the early church and returned to common people in the Reformation.

“How varied and how splendid the wealth which this treasure contains it is difficult to describe in words; whatever I shall say, I know full well, must fall far short of its worth. . . . This book, not unreasonably, am I wont to style an anatomy of all parts of the soul, for no one will discover in himself a single feeling whereof the image is not reflected in this mirror. . . .  The rest of Holy Scripture contains the commands which God gave to his servants to be delivered unto us; but here the prophets themselves, holding converse with God, inasmuch as they lay bare all their inmost feelings, invite or impel every one of us to self-examination, that of all the infirmities to which we are liable and all the sins of which we are so full, none may remain hidden.”

– John Calvin, preface to Commentary on the Psalms of David

“In the Psalms, we look into the heart of all the saints, and, we seem to gaze into fair pleasure-gardens; into heaven itself, indeed; where bloom the sweet, refreshing, gladdening flowers of holy and happy thoughts about God and all His benefits.  On the other hand, where will you find deeper, sadder, more piteous words of mourning than in the Psalms?  In these again, we look into the heart of the saints, and we seem to be looking into death, yea, into hell itself.  How gloomy, how dark it is there, because of the many sad visions of the wrath of God!”

– Martin Luther

Sing a Psalm with your family and have a happy Reformation Day!

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