OWAAT December 17: Waking from Complacency to Joy

Here we are at week three of Advent in our wait for Jesus’ birth, lighting the candle of joy, and continuing through the Psalms with #114-120 in our daily readings. While they don’t necessarily have a unified theme, they do tend to emphasize God’s power and trusting God. We’ll also read the shortest psalm this week, Psalm 117.


Daily Bible readings:

December 10 – Psalm 114
December 11 – Psalm 115
December 12 – Psalm 116
December 13 – Psalm 117
December 14 – Psalm 118
December 15 – Psalm 119
December 16 – Psalm 120

Our psalms this week cover some very “big picture” faith topics. Clint McCann says in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, “Psalm 114 is a poetic affirmation of the faith that lies at the heart of the whole Bible: the God who rules the cosmos is made known in space and time for the purpose of properly ordering the world and the human community,” and that this and Psalm 115 are a single psalm in some traditions. Also in the NIBC, Psalm 116: “Contrary to conventional worldly wisdom, the psalmist asserts that God helps those who cannot help themselves (see Commentary on Psalm 3). Psalm 116 thus invites, not self-reliance, but dependence upon God – in short, trust…” In spite of God’s admonitions against idols, sometimes society tries to re-create God in its own image – one of the reasons why our daily Bible reading is so important. Walter Brueggemann reminds us that we also wrestle with the “tension of ‘universalism and particularism'” at the heart of Psalm 117, particularly in “how the ‘Christian West’ is to related to non-Christian civiliation.” (p. 526) As a theology professor impressed upon a class of mine, “There are no easy answers” – but do wrestle with the questions, and see where they take you.


How is your journey with chanting the Psalms going? Cynthia Borgeault notes, “To look at the Psalms as an adventure in human consciousness is in no way to deny their special, intimate connection to the people and memory of Israel. But it sets this memory within a much more universal context, for in a mysterious and dynamic way, the Psalms still carry the heart and soul of the ongoing human adventure with God.” (p. 16) Do you see your adventure with God aligning with the Psalms in any way? How?


Sometimes in order to act powerfully in our world, we need a bit of rousting from our complacency. Dennis Jacobsen helps us to understand the role of love in this kind of shaking up. “Agitation is a summoning forth of one’s vision for one’s life in defiance of all those cultural forces that press down upon a person so that by middle age a restless settling in takes place, an accommodation to meaningless work, unsatisfying relationships, and an unjust society…. Without someone to agitate us, even people of faith succumb to the malaise of society and to an inertia of the soul. Tragedy permeates the air when a person abandons the great questions to settle for the banal.” (p. 118) Does God ever agitate you? How, or through whom?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for things to do.

Find your local faith- or congregation-based community organizing network/organization and participate in their work and actions. Here are links to the major faith-based community organizing networks and their local affiliate organizations:

DART – Direct Action and Research Training Center


IAF – Industrial Areas Foundation

IVP – InterValley Project

PICO – People Improving Communities through Organizing

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

Bourgeault, Cynthia. Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2006.

Brueggemann, Walter, and William H. Bellinger Jr. Psalms. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Jacobsen, Dennis A. Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing, 2nd Edition. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017.

McCann, J. Clinton. “Psalms” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Volume III: Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms, Introduction to Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Abingdon Press, 2015.