If Pastor Mike had asked me in person to do this I’m sure I would have been shocked and flattered, laughed, and then immediately said an emphatic “NO!”. And someone else would have been standing here now. However, he made the request by e-mail. I was still shocked and flattered, but I took the time to read it again. Actually several times.
He said to choose my favorite psalm and give a short reflection on it. OK–I don’t think I have a favorite psalm. Then what?? He added that it might include such things as why I like it, what special meaning it may have had in the past or present. He really hooked me when he said they were not looking for a Biblical analysis, but a personal reflection. If any of you have ever been in a Sunday School class or a Bible Study group with me you know I NEVER have a Biblical analysis on ANYTHING!!!
I remembered that Psalm 51 always transports me back to my childhood–grade school days–and triggers a lot of memories of that time in my life. When my sister was living we talked every Saturday morning at 11 o’clock and often reminisced about those happy days. I haven’t been able to do that for about a year and a half and you can blame Pastor Mike for giving me permission to “let loose”.
Every week Folke Hermanson, the Sunday School superintendent, would lead us in reading that psalm. It was probably our “confession of sins”, but I doubt if that meant much to me then. And I was so close to being perfect I probably didn’t have many sins to confess. Note the past tense of the verb–WAS close. The only translation of the Bible that we used then was the King James Version, so I’m going to read a few verses from my Confirmation Bible (1949) [Read Psalm 51:1-4] AND [Psalm 51:9-15]
I was born in 1934. A few of you were in my 7th or 8th grade math classes so I know you can subtract. Some of you can’t subtract without a calculator, so I’ll help you out. This means I am 83–as of Monday. This was in the middle of the Great Depression which started in 1929 and continued up to World War II. I always say we were poor but we didn’t know it. My present attitude about money probably is influenced by that time in my life.
As an example—and some of you have heard this before because I repeat it every chance I get–my brother, sister, and I used to do our Christmas shopping with a quarter. There were 5 in my family so that meant a nickel gift for each–including ourselves. We spent a lot of time in the 5 & 10 deciding how to spend those nickels. For some reason one of my favorite gifts was a memo pad, about 4inches by 3inches, about 3 inches thick, with 5 different colors of paper. I don’t know what I ever did with them.
Our Sunday School offering envelopes were divided into 2 sections and we put a penny in each side. (That’s about a dollar a year! I know–actually it’s $1.04 but we may have missed a week or two.) On the Sunday closest to our birthdays they would sing to us and we’d put a penny for each year into a special container–don’t know what it was used for.
I remember a picture of an old man hanging on the wall–I was sure it was a picture of God.
My dad worked as a serviceman for West Penn Power Company but for several years he spent nights and weekends as the church janitor. So every Saturday the whole family helped him to get ready for the Sunday services. I remember dusting the pews and setting up the chairs for Sunday School. All the classes were held in one room, about the size of St. James’ dining room.
One Sunday School memory doesn’t take place in church, but in my home. One Sunday morning I was coming downstairs, ready to leave for church. I caught my shoe on the top step and went airborne the rest of the way–landing in a thud when my head hit the wall at the bottom. Dented the wall about this big and about 1/2 inch deep. That dent remained for many, many years as a constant reminder of my flight. Some people say it helps to explain why I am the way I am today. Eventually my dad decided to fill in the dent but he didn’t do a very good job. When he was finished the wall bulged out instead of in. And yes–I made it to Sunday School.
So these are a few things I think about when I hear the words of Psalm 51. Actually when I first started to put my memories on paper it was about twice as long. And I probably should have cut it in half again. Again–blame Pastor Mike.
But I can’t leave until I mention a verse from another psalm that really got my attention one Sunday during the worship service. [Read Psalm 90, verse 10] With each birthday the words become more meaningful.