YEAR A, B, C: BAPTISM OF JESUS
(Sunday between January 7 and January 13)
This psalm is set for the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus at the beginning of the season of Epiphany each year. It is also set for Trinity Sunday in Year B. The connection of the psalm to both the Baptism of Jesus and to Trinity Sunday is itself instructive. The psalm ties the two celebrations together. By chance, or by the design of the lectionary makers, the psalm is also tied to one of the psalms set for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, namely Psalm 96. Ps 29:1-2 is quoted in Ps 96:7-9. Thus, strong links are drawn between these festival days: Christmas, the Baptism of Jesus and Trinity Sunday. In these days we celebrate the ‘fullness’ of God, present not only in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but also at the birth and beginning of the life of Jesus.
The images of power in Psalm 29 might seem inconsistent with those of the babe in the manger in Bethlehem. But we note that the story of the babe heralded events unfolding which are far greater than the homely story of a poor family and the birth of their child. Something cosmic, or universal, entered into human space and time in the nativity and it is heralded here in the celebration of Jesus’ baptism. Moreover, it came to those least expected to bear it. The images of power in Psalm 29 which remind us of the one who is creator of all that was, is or is yet to be, and the use of the psalm for the Baptism and for Trinity Sunday draw us back to seeing that what is celebrated in our Christmas festivities, is fully revealed in the ‘whole’ glory of God, Father, Son and Spirit, the one who creates, redeems and gives life.
This is all by way of reminding us that the story begun
at Christmas is not over yet. Its fullness is foreshadowed in this celebration
of the Baptism. The psalm draws to a conclusion in v. 10 with a statement
that ‘the Lord sits enthroned over the flood’ as ‘king forever’. That image
of kingship, drawing as it does on ancient institutions and mythic symbolism,
will be shaped in a particular way for us – the way of the cross and resurrection
of Jesus, and his ascension to God’s right hand. But the psalm follows
v. 10 with the prayer: ‘May the Lord give strength to his people! May the
Lord bless his people with peace!’ (v. 11) This prayer will be answered
in the gift of the Spirit. Nothing less than the kingdom of God is unfolding
among us. It is that which we celebrate and to which we respond ‘Glory!’
Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship:
The beginning of this psalm (Ps 29:1-2), which is repeated with some changes in Ps 96:7-9 (see the comment on the psalms for Christmas Day), would serve well as a call to worship for the congregation.
The main body of the psalm (29:3-10) is essentially a hymn of praise and could serve as a prayer of adoration, although the strength of the language and the imagery which depends so much on ancient mythic material, would need some comment either in the sermon or briefly before the prayer.
The last two verses of the psalm could be used as a fitting refrain during the prayers for the people. After each petition the response could be:
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;Finally, the end of the psalm, v. 11, makes an ideal introduction to the blessing at the end of the service leading into the blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Old Testament reading: Isaiah 42:1-9
Return to OT Lectionary Readings
contents page Year A