A Reflection on Psalm 29 by Canon Rob,
8th January 2023, the First Sunday after Epiphany
Along with many other Churches, at St Dunstan’s today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany and remember the Visit of the 3 Kings to the Child Jesus. However, in the Church of England Lectionary, the title is “The Baptism of Christ.” So, near the beginning of another New Year, we reflect upon Psalm 29, set for today, and remember that for all who have been baptised, at whatever age that may have been, that wonderful event also marks a new beginning.
At first sight, this psalm seems a strange choice given the subject for today, especially as it is clearly about a storm. [See verses 3 and 7.] One of my commentaries calls it, “God speaks in a storm!” In the psalm we are told repeatedly about “the voice of the Lord” which: “is upon the waters” [verses 3]; “is mighty in operation” and is “glorious” [verse 4]; “breaks the cedar trees” [verse 5]; “splits the flash of lightning” and “shakes the wilderness” [verse 7]; and in verse 8 “makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare.” What has all this got to do with baptism? In verse one, we are encouraged to give God the honour He is due. “Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.” Then, as often happens in the psalms, the next verse almost (but not quite) seems to repeat this plea: “Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Verse 9 gives us, perhaps, the main reason for giving God such honour and worship. He “sits enthroned above the water flood” and “is king for evermore.” We celebrate the belief that our God, the Creator of all that exists, is all powerful. There is no other god like Him. So, for a moment near the beginning of this New Year, reflect upon your experience of God and give thanks for those times when you have felt Him close to you and when He has guided you, even ‘spoken’ to you in your heart, through “a storm” in your life.
Now, let’s return to the Baptism of Christ, even though in the calendar year and liturgically, it isn’t that long since we celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas! The Gospel reading today is Matthew 3.13 – end. There we are told that, as Jesus came out of the water, “a voice from heaven was heard saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, on whom my favour rest.” The voice which we heard speaking seven times in Psalm 29 is here again, this time telling those standing around John the Baptist and Jesus in the River Jordan, that Jesus is the long awaited Saviour. John has prepared the people for his coming. Here is the proof that he is here. Jesus is God with us! Jesus Christ is the Word of God! [See John 1.1-14]
There are many references in the Bible to the voice of God. In the wonderful creation myth in Chapter 1 of Genesis, containing more truth than taking it literally, God speaks to bring everything into being and in complete contrast to the images of Psalm 29, in 1 Kings 19.9-14, we find the moving story of God speaking to the prophet Elijah, who has run away from the people who are out to kill him. But here, God speaks in a “still, small voice.” Let me encourage you to ponder this story for a few minutes, and reflect upon how God may speak to you and how ready you are to hear His voice. It may surprise you for we are often so involved with getting on with life, trying to cope when things go wrong, or simply being ‘too busy.’ God speaks today as He always has done just as Jesus spoke to calm the storm. [Matthew 8.23-27.] “Peace, be still!” It is that peace of God which passes all understanding but which, whenever we experience it, we know it to be true. May we all hear God’s voice and through this New Year receive His gift of peace throughout the world.
Open our ears to hear you, O God, and our mouths to proclaim your glory
and the beauty of your holiness as revealed to us in your Son, Jesus Christ.
[Prayer at the end of Psalm 29 in Common Worship Daily Prayer]