Psalms and the missional formation of the Church

A Light to the Nations by Michael GoheenI’m really enjoying Michael Goheen’s book,  A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. Here’s a nice quote on the relationship between the Psalms and the formation of the people of God, and how this relates to our engagement in God’s mission:

We get a glimpse of the richness of Israel’s worship when we read Israel’s temple hymnbook – the psalms, which prompt the people to thanksgiving, wisdom, commitment, repentance, joy, and obedience. The psalms nourish faithfulness in all its dimensions, so that Israel might be an attractive display people. Israel’s worship and liturgy also creates an alternative worldview to that of its pagan neighbors, opening up a very different way of seeing and living in the world. It offers an unclouded vision of the world in which the one true God, Israel’s God, is creator of all things, ruler of nature and history, and merciful savior. Rodney Clapp captures this perspective on worship in the title of his chapter on the church’s worship: “Welcome to the real world.” In the midst of the land, before the nations, Israel’s worship celebrates the one true God and his mighty deeds in history. What Paul Jones says about the church is certainly first true of Israel: “Inasmuch as the Church is anchored in the gracious acts of God, corporate worship sustains and transmits Christian identity formation.” And so in these ways Israel’s identity and self-understanding, its role and calling in the midst of the nations, are constantly celebrated and nourished by its liturgy. (pp.57-58)

One question that arises for me is, ‘In what ways are we celebrating and nourishing our role and calling in the midst of the nations?’

What do you think?

PS. If you are interested in the relationship between the Psalter and the mission of God, have a look at the June 2010 issue of Encounters Mission Journal, which was on the theme of The Psalms and Mission. It features the following articles:

  • Editorial:  The Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission.
    (Tim Davy, 761 words, pdf 54 KB)
  • Article 1:  The Nations in the Psalms.
    (Prof Gordon Wenham, 5513 words, pdf 65 KB)
  • Article 2:  The Nations in the Psalms and the Psalms in the Nations – a response.
    (Tim Davy, 912 words, pdf 51 KB)
  • Article 3:  Psalms 1-2 as an Introduction to Reading the Psalms Missionally.
    (Dr Brian Russell, 2083 words, pdf 51 KB)
  • Article 4:  Reflections on the Nations in the Psalms.
    (Eddie Arthur, 485 words, pdf 23 KB)
  • Article 5:  The Nations in Isaiah 40-55.
    (Rev Dr David Spriggs, 1218 words, pdf 37 KB)
  • Article 6:  Missionary Attrition and the Psalms of Lament.
    (Name withheld, 1041 words, pdf 41 KB)
  • Article 7:  A Missional Reading of Psalm 47.
    (Tony Hughes, 1664 words, pdf 48 KB)
  • Article 8:  Praying the Psalms.
    (Rev Dr Ian Stackhouse, 2598 words, pdf 59 KB)


  • Book Review 1:  Transformation after Lausanne: Radical Evangelical Mission in Global-local Perspective.
    (by Al Tizon; Regnum Books)
  • Book Review 2:  Understanding and Using the Bible.
    (edited by Christopher J.H. Wright and Jonathan Lamb; SPCK)


Joy, thankfulness, psalms and mission

What motivates your participation in the mission of God? It seems to me there are various things that might focus our minds on being and sharing the good news of Jesus: obedience (Matt. 28:18-20) is one; love and conviction are others (2 Cor. 5:14-15). But what about joy and thankfulness?

I was speaking at Hillview Evangelical Church in Gloucester on Sunday on Psalm 100. Such a great Psalm:

A psalm. For giving thanks.
 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
       come before him with joyful songs.
 3 Know that the LORD is God.
       It is he who made us, and we are his [a] ; [Or and not we ourselves]
       we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
       and his courts with praise;
       give thanks to him and praise his name.
 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
       his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV)

The preceeding psalms have been full of the assertion and celebration of God’s kingship, packed with praise and joy but also with an eye on the nations and all creation (see Ps. 96:3-4, 10-13; 97:1; 98:1-9).

Perhaps thankfulness motivates us in two ways:

1. We reckon with who God is and what he has done and is doing, in contrast with who we are and what we deserve. And so we want to share this message of hope with others.

2. We get caught up in a vision of the nations (100:1 ‘all the earth’) also rejoicing in the works of the Lord and this inspires us to be part of God’s purposes for seeing that multiculural thankful and worshipping community come about.

What practical steps can we take to cultivate a ‘missional thankfulness’?

Biblical Basis of Mission course – week four

The book of Psalms is an immensely significant part of the Scriptures. There are many reasons for this but one struck me in particular this week as we looked at the subject of mission in the Psalms and Wisdom Literature.

My daughter is learning to talk at the moment. I could write a whole stream of posts on what I am learning about language from her (in fact – I think I will; watch this space!). One of the things that shapes her language development is what she hears and sees repeated again and again. She is immersed in certain words and phrases (‘daddy’, ‘mummy’, ‘bye-bye’, ‘dog’, etc.) and it is this repetition that informs her view of the world.

It’s the same with the songs we sing on a Sunday morning, isn’t it? We may not realise it but worship songs are remarkably influential in shaping our theology and experience as disciples of Jesus.

And so it is with the Psalms. These prayers and songs that the Israelites would have prayed and sung over and over and over again were fundamental to how they conceptualised and experienced God in the world. So when we consider the missional significance of the Psalms we must ask, ‘How is this text that was repeated again and again shaping the person or community that prays or sings it?’ The basic point of this is not new to me but I’d never really considered the power of repetition in this context.

As a class we went for a wander around Redcliffe’s grounds and read aloud to each other from the Psalter. These are some snippets from what we read together:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. (Psalm 8:1, ESV)

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1)

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you! (Psalm 67:1-5)

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:1-3)

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 117)

These are some of the ways in which the nations feature in the Psalms. How would they (or should they) have shaped Israel’s attitudes and theology? And what about C21 believers? How do the songs we sing and the prayers we pray develop the missional shape of our lives?

I’ll leave it there for now and do a separate post on the Wisdom Literature before my post of week five. If you are around at 11am to 1pm come and join the conversation at . My thanks to Brian Russell for doing so on Monday. Check out his excellent blog, which this week featured a post on a missional reading of Psalm 2.