Reflection - Psalm 127

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Reflection on Psalm 127

D. Grace Curran

Why a psalm? Psalms are for praying, for singing between readings, for saying the office. They practically pray themselves. So as I was having my own little conversation in my head-

It dawned on me why a psalm….you can’t hide from a psalm. There are very few exegetical parlor tricks you can do with a psalm. And if a retreat is to reveal something in us, we can more easily hear that revelation in the clarity of the psalms.

You can’t hide IN a psalm, there is really not a scene or a crowd,

no Jesus or Paul exhorting us, no prophet warning us- no character to identify with, no prodigal son, no rich young man. Largely, there is just God and us, individually or collectively.

There is nothing or no one you can hide from in a psalm.

Ours is the voice that cries aloud to God for mercy, for forgiveness, for strength and sometimes even vengeance.

In a psalm we may be at our best or at our worst …but we are there

And so is God.

Psalm 127 is a wisdom psalm.

Psalms come in several flavors- there are Psalms of thanksgiving, like last evening’s psalm (Ps 116), there are psalms of lament like Tuesday’s psalm (Ps85).  There are psalms of praise and royal psalms and then there are psalms like the one from Monday evening (Ps 119) that refuse to be categorized- as if to say – our ongoing dialogue and relationship with God cannot be neatly packaged.

And as I pondered our psalm this evening I realized something else. Our first three psalms are in the first person.

"I" love your law",

"I" listen to God speaking


"I" will offer sacrifice

Tonight Wisdom speaks- and the sense I get from our psalm is- "that is so great what "YOU" do"- now let me give you some advice-

Unless God is in the midst of all our doing- our doing is in vain.

Even to the practical things of building a house or of guarding the city , God work must work in us or our efforts fail. This says to me that in the everyday events and experiences and responsibilities of our lives- if we forget WHO it is we, as believers are called to serve and witness to, then we labor in vain.

I couldn’t help myself to seek a fuller Hebrew meaning of the word vain since it is repeated so often in our psalm-vain: "empty, worthless,, for nothing"

How often have we said…"I worked so hard and yet "it" (whatever it was) just didn’t work out…nothing came of it or I stayed up all night –burned the midnight oil- and I still failed my test…" vain?

Our psalm says …in vain is your earlier rising and your later going to rest…for God pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber…"this is God’s wisdom.

You probably have heard or seen a quote attributed to St. Francis that goes something like "Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary."

Actually Francis never said that…. rather it is based on a story about a young friar who was chosen to go with Francis to preach. They started out early in the morning going from town to town greeting people with "peace and all good" – stopping to assist anyone in need. They walked all day and returned to the friary that evening and the young friar was confused and somewhat disappointed and said Father Francis- I thought you said we were going to preach today" and Francis answered him:

It is no use (it is vain?) walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.

In vain do we do anything- unless God’s wisdom,

God’s presence, God’s plan, and the grace of our baptism is in our building and guarding, in our walking and in our working for then even in our sleeping God will give us the reward of our labors.

Thanks be to God!

D. Grace Curran is a parishioner at St. John the Beloved Parish in Summerville, South Carolina. She teaches Theology-Old Testament at Bishop England High School in Charleston SC. She is a Secular Franciscan and says, "I love to cook."

She gave this reflection on Psalm 127 at a Thursday evening service as part of a parish retreat.

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Blessings on your preaching.

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