Hey April is National Poetry Month! Wahoo! Another reason to like April.
And as it turns out a lot of Acts 2:22-39 is poetry. Psalms are ancient, written by David*, and used by millions in worship and prayer both corporate and personal for thousands of years. When my son was a horrid little baby to get him to fall asleep I held him and rocked and read Psalms out loud. We read all the psalms out loud twice before we were able to move on to little baby books and other stuff. The psalms got us through a very frustrating phase of parenthood and adjustment! But perhaps because of this experience I haven’t read them much since then.
In studying prayer, Psalms come up constantly: songs of praise, intercession, lament, argument, profound sadness, transcendent joy and hope.
So Peter asks the Israelites in the crowd that had gathered because people were being so strange, to listen. He tells them God attested to Jesus of Nazareth in various ways and how the Israelites failed to listen is implicit. I’ll get back to that, but in honor of National Poetry Month, I’m skipping to the first Psalm bit in this section — Peter brings up David and quotes from Psalm 16:8-11. (If God attesting isn’t good enough for you, perhaps David’s prophecies of Jesus will do the job….)
I didn’t think I would be able to memorize these lines and it turns out to be amazing what one can do when absolutely determined….and with the grace of God. I wrote them over and over by hand and in Word. I pulled the first word — I, for, that, therefore, my, moreover, for, or, You, You. I found patterns from right hand, to heart, to tongue, to flesh, to soul, to corruption, to ways of life, to his presence. I raise my right hand in a fist as I say “I saw the Lord always before me.” I touch my heart, I touch my mouth (got to watch to not muffle the voice).
“I saw the Lord always before me,/for he is at my right hand so/that I will not be shaken” —
Let me pause to say that since memorizing this I’ve seen it everywhere. God is always at our right hands. We will not be shaken. And I get a bit giddy thinking — for thousands of years, thousands (more?) people have said those words. God is at our right hand. We will not be shaken. God is right here.
“therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced/moreover my flesh will live in hope./For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,/or let your Holy One experience corruption/You have made known to me the ways of life;/You will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
I wiggle my fingers, for now anyway, with the words “ways of life,” as a way of pointing to the flesh that will experience corruption and that holds babies and writes poetry. The ways of life. Thank you God!
In memorial services, there’s a phrase like that, something like “she is now full of the presence of God”. We will be in God’s presence when we die, and we will be glad, so glad we are full. Complete. Whole.
(*I’m not a scholar, I don’t actually know who wrote the Psalms, but in liturgy at my church it is always said that David wrote them. I hardly know how he had time to write them all. 😉 )