The Arena
The Arena

Episode 576 · 2 months ago

Leaves that Don't Wither | The Psalms in the Church | 7th Sunday after Pentecost

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a seven part lecture series by Father Josiah Trenham entitled Heaven, our True Home. One of the most shocking realities of the preaching and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ to his early first century Judean audience was his fervent, expansive and repetitive teaching on Heaven. Heaven literally permeates the sermon on the mount and our Savior's parabolic instruction. The Holy Apostles received this single eyed focus upon the next life from the Lord Christ and passed this teaching on to their disciples in the early church. Sacred tradition has vivified and animated the discipleship of Christians in their race toward heaven ever since. In these lectures, Father Josiah opens the scriptures and the writings of the church fathers on the subject of Heaven in an effort to plant a deep impression of the future life for God's children and to stir up a great desire for obtaining it. For these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org and now the arena with Father Josiah Trena, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Then I've entitled my homily today. Dear ones, leaves that do not wither the PSALTER in the church. But before I start my sermon, I wanted you to know my pain to resist preaching on the Gospel text today. This gospel text as a preacher's dream. Of course it's. It climaxes with Jesus is paradigm for Ministry. He went about all the villages and towns preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, teaching and performing all sorts of miracles and healings. This full orbed propagation of the kingdom focused on the preaching of the Gospel, serious discipleship and Instruction, together with charity. This is the pattern that the church has followed for two thousand years. Then, of course, there's the juicy, homiletical theme of the relationship between Faith and obedience. Jesus asked the blind men, of course, if they had faith that he could heal them, and they said yes, and he did heal them based on that faith and then gave them a simple command, the first command, that they received from their new Lord who had just healed them. Don't say anything to anyone, and they promptly went and told everyone what he had done. This, uh, this lack of harmony between our faith sometimes and our obedience is it's a very juicy theme itself that I'm very tempted to to...

...preach on, and there are others, but I am restraining myself because I have a great desire to speak to you a little bit about the psalms in their place in the church. One of the reasons I am particularly interested in doing this right now is because on Wednesday nights in our St John Chrysostom critical school we are unpacking a really edifying book called the wisdom of Sirac, which is part of what we call the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. The heart of the wisdom literature is the PSALTER, the songs and the Psalms constitute the most important prayer book in the Church. We Sing Psalms more than we sing anything else. The Psalms. We have built the entire liturgical tradition of the church around the songs. We begin every week, every liturgical week, which begins on Saturday night with ninth hour and vespers, or sometimes places will just do the vesper service. What do we begin with? We begin with the creation Psalm and then we begin with the blessed. It is the man. We read the first Cathizma, the first of twenty sections of the Psalms. Sometimes we chant an abbreviated portion of that, which we do here on Saturday nights. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the Council of the wicked, stand in the path of sitters or sit in the seat of the righteous. We sink through that. You begin your liturgical life every week anew with the psalms. Every service is just chopped full of them. If you were here listening and praying the Orthros this morning, you would have begun with the six psalms that begin every orthro service. You heard some fifty the classic Psalm of Repentance, teaching us how to repent for our sins after the reading of the Gospel. That connection is very important. We hear the Gospel and we immediately read the Psalm of repentance. You heard the psalms of praise, that everything praise the Lord some one through one. We chanted right through that. If we chanted the poll alios, which we often do in or throws on a big feast and, if not, an Orthros, often during the communion. This is someone. Psalms are simply everywhere. They are our life. Why? Why are the psalms such a big deal in the Christian life? Why is it that we have been formed by them more than anything else? Well, that question is posed and answered by one of the Great Saints of the Church, Saint Basil, the Great. St Basil has written a brief summary of the value of the psalms in our life, why they're...

...so important, why God gave them to us and how we use them, in a homily that he delivered on psm one. It's a magnificent homily that he was so excited to give that he only stopped on the last page. You'll you'll, you see the scribe rights he said to his congregation. The only reason I'm stopping is because I've lost my voice and I can't continue. That's how enthusiastic St Basia was to say some words about the psalms. I have a few extracts from his reflection that I want to share with you about the place of the Psalms and why they're so important. For us. He says all scripture is inspired by God and is useful composed by the spirit. For this reason, notice how he views scripture inspired and composed by the spirit. He's not saying that men didn't write these psalms or other portions of scripture. They did, and their contribution are important. God used select persons, but the key author is the spirit of God. All scripture is inspired by God and useful composed by the spirit for this reason, namely that we men, each and all of us, as if in a general hospital for souls, may select the remedy for his own condition. Now, the prophets teach one thing, the historians another, the law something else, and the form of advice found in the proverbs is something different still. He's going through the various genre of holy scripture, each contributing something uniquely to us. But the Book of Psalms has taken over what is profitable from all it foretells coming events. It has prophecy, it recalls history, it's like a mini chronicler. It frames laws for life. It's like the pentituch. It suggests, it's what must be done. It's like the wisdom literature, like the proverbs and it is the common treasury of good doctrine. The old wounds of souls it cures completely, and to the recently wounded it brings speedy improvement. The palter treats the diseased and the unharmed. It preserves, it faces the passions, and it does this with a certain orderly persuasion and sweetness which produces sound thoughts. That emphasis upon the sweetness of the Psalms is big for St Basil. There's something about inspired poetry that enables us to receive God's even hard words. Well, in the psalms the Holy Spirit mingled the delight of melody with the doctrines so that, by the pleasantness and softness of the sound heard, we might receive the benefit of the words, just like physicians give bitter medicine to people by smearing the lip of the Cup with honey. For never has any...

...one of the many indifferent persons gone away easily holding in their minds either an apostolic or prophetic message. Do you hear what he's saying? Saying if you're relatively indifferent and you come here to listen to me, I might have some great apostolic words, some Great Prophetic injunction for you, but you're not going to remember it much if your soul is indifferent. But they do chant the words of the Psalms, even in the home, and they spread them around in the marketplace. And even if someone becomes wrathful and angry, when he begins to be soothed by the Psalms, he departs from his wrath immediately, lulled to sleep by means of the melody. A Psalm implies serenity of soul. It is the author of peace. A Psalm forms friendships, it unites those who are separated. It conciliates those that are at enmity. A psalm brings about choral singing, a bond toward unity, joining the people into a harmonious union of one choir and producing the greatest blessing of all, charity love. A Psalm is a city of refuge from the demons, a means of inducing help from the angels, a weapon in fears by night, arrest from toils by day, a safeguard for infants, an adornment for those at the height of their vigor, consolation for the elders, a most fitting ornament for women. It brings solitude to the people. It rids the marketplace of excesses. It's the element exposition, elemental exposition of beginners, the improvement of those who are advancing, the solid support of the perfect. It is the voice of the church. That's the PSALTER, the voice of the church. It brightens our feast days, it creates a sorrow which is in accordance with God. A Psalm calls forth a tear, even from a heart of stone. By singing the psalms the teachings are impressed more deeply in our minds. In the Psalms, in perfect theology, we have a prediction of the coming of Christ in the flesh, a threat of judgment, a hope of Resurrection, a fear of punishment, promises of glory and unveiling of mysteries. All things, as if in some great public treasury, are stored up in the Book of Psalms. That's like a half of page of fourteen pages on the psalms. This is how valuable they are. Dear ones, those of you who have been teaching or helping at the St Andrew Academy or who have kids there, you've been witnessing this for a year when we did all the reviews of the parents and the staff at the end of the year and we asked questions about what was most rubble. You know what was at the top of the...

...list? What was at the top of the list was the unbelievable incessant singing everywhere. The singing not just in church. It was here, of course, in the morning each morning, but it continued. It broke out in class, it went it broke out in lunch while the kids were walking around. We have the same thing on the camp out every year when we go for a week together with all the young people. What do we do? We spend a lot of our time singing all sorts of hymns and all sorts of Psalms. This is the power of the PSALTER. This is why the salter is so precious. Someone I'd like to speak to you just a bit about now, someone which is the intro to the entire psalters and Basil, says that if you understand someone, you'll understand the purpose for all hundred and fifties thombs. It begins exactly as Jesus begins his preaching when you open the book of Matthew and You read the Holy Gospel and the first line of Jesus teaching in the summer. On the mouth he pronounces a blessing. Blessed are the poor in spirit. This is how it begins, this is how the beatitudes begins. He also inspired David and those who put the salt together to begin in the same way. Someone blessed is the man who does not walk in the Council of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. And in whatever he does he prospers. His leaf does not with her, and then whatever he does he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the Righteous, for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Wow, two sections, six simple verses. This opening psalm to provide a prism through which to read the rest of the PSALTER. The first three verses about the righteous and the last three verses about the wicked. The righteous. We're told some things that the righteous refused to do and other things that the righteous positively do. The righteous refused to walk in ungodly counsel, they refused to stand in the path of sinners and they refused to seat, sit themselves in the seat of the scoffers. St Basil says the seat of the scoffers is a life studied in disobedience. It's long, hard resistance to...

God. This is the seat of the scoffers and we'll have nothing to do with it. We don't want anything to do with it. Notice the progression walking, standing, sitting. The righteous avoid all counsel of godlessness. We certainly don't take it seriously enough to stand and start engaging it. Nor do we get settled in disobedience instead. What's our interest? Instead, the righteous person delights in the law of God. Let me just up there, dear ones, think about your yourself objectively by your deeds with regards to God's laws and the study of his words. Do you think someone else would describe you as someone who is delighting in God's loss. Are you meditating upon them day and night? This is David, or I should say according to the same Basil, this is the Holy Spirit saying to us what the characteristic of a righteous person is. They love God's words. They meditate upon them day and night. They are true delight. This is what we do positively. We're interested in these things. We're interested in growing and learning and knowing more about God and his ways. We love to be taught by the spirit of God. You know, there's a very, very famous Roman Catholic monk. He was born, I think, about eighty end of the fourteenth century and he lived through the middle of the fifteenth century. His name is Thomas a Kempis. Some of you probably know him and have read a classic that he wrote, which is called on the imitation of Christ. Familiar with that text? It's a classic. It's an absolute classic on the Imitation of Christ. It's a devotional work. It's not a deep theological work. It's basically his Um, his teaching about how Christ wins the love of our heart and what a person who loves Christ looks like, and he describes, he addresses this very issue of how our love is measured by our attention to the Scriptures, by our love for the Scriptures, that we delight in them, like the Psalm says. He has a little famous quote he says describing his own life. He says, I have no rest but in a nook with the book.

I have no rest but in a nook with the book, and the Book is God's Book, the Book you've just kissed this morning, the sacred scriptures. This is our positive commitment. We stay away from seductive wickedness. We delight in the law of God and the fruit of this, the fruit of being near him and attending and learning and delighting in his words, is that we become a tree firmly planted by the streams of water. We're not like the wicked that our chaff that just blows away with a breeze. We get rooted, we become substantial, we actually become people with roots and we don't blow here and there. Because we have roots, we can walk in the world and bear Christ without the fear that we're going to be sliced down or we're going to be blown over. will be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in its season and its leaf never withers. I particularly like that. The person who attends to the law of God, who delights in this day and night and meditates upon it, becomes a person who's always bearing fruit and even when it's dry, even when it's parched, doesn't wither up. We're like evergreen trees, but evergreen trees from paradise, because our evergreen trees don't produce fruits. They never wither, but they don't produce fruits. Christians who are attentive to the law become evergreens, but fruit bearing, paradisal evergreens. The wicked are not so, and, by the way, that's the septuagint has a double negative. There many English translations just say the wicked aren't like this or the wicked are not so, but that's not actually what it says. It actually says, OK, twice, not so, the wicked not so completely different life. They're like chaff. Worthless is the life of inattention to God? Worthless is the life of delighting in sin. Chaff is dead, thin, unservable, unserviceable, doomed, and the terrible blast of God's judgment blows the chaff away. This is a life that is only not stable and fruit bearing, but it's completely unstable, going here and there depending upon the slightest breeze, excluded from the Kingdom. So learned, dear ones, learned to sing that beautiful hymn. Blessed is the...

...man that you hear us sing every Saturday night. We sing it int one five. There's lots of great settings of it. And Sing it, don't you see it? When you here? Learn to sing it, sing it with your kids, sing it at home and even some of these hard words that you just heard in these beautiful six verses, even some of these hard words because of the Melody of the of the Hymns, because of the softness of the beautiful poetry. Even when we're not in the best disposition to receive the word of God, we will. It will come into US and nourish us. After I'm done with Syric, I'm going to do a short teaching on the major psalms that are used in the services. This is kind of advertisement. God bless you. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organizing committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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