Psalms Summer NL Series

This series employs Brueggemann’s schema of orientation/dis-orientation/re-orientation in the Psalms. For a review of the more layperson-friendly version of that work that summarizes the argument, see


PSALM 113 First Sunday of Psalms series

This Psalm has pretty good liturgy and exegetical resources at, some of which are highlighted below*; see to do your own exploring

Themes include God bending down and/or making the barren fruitful (beyond the question of childbearing)


Although this can be credited to Calvin (see,  when reading for my dissertation I found the same illustration in Zwingli (who predates Calvin): God talks baby talk to us because this is what we can understand (condescension). Of course now I cannot locate the Zwingli reference…

HYMNS listed in the NL resource above include ones that also include Father’s Day themes, suggesting that the action of God in this psalm could be called fatherly; wish we had a better word for “parenting;” it’s less gendered, but it doesn’t have the same tender overtones…

Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven

  1. 3

Fatherlike he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes


How Deep the Father’s Love for Us


Father, I Adore You


Abba, Father You are the Potter, We are the Clay (more Father’s Day than Psalm 113)


Let Us with a Gladsome Mind


Of the Father’s Love Begotten

From All That Dwell Below the Skies

Ye Servant of God, Your Master Proclaim

The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended

HYMN LISTING for Psalm 113 from at

From CCM type sources:


HYMNS RELATED to theme of SELF-EMPTYING (* indicates also includes the idea of the name)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Once in Royal David’s City

O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High

What Wondrous Love Is This

Go to Dark Gethsemane

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Were You There?

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name*

At the Name of Jesus*

The Head That Once Was Crowned

Rejoice, the Lord is King

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Lift High the Cross


BULLETIN COVERS but not sure if/how you can print/save



Prayer of Approach: Psalm 113 from worshipblogspot*

Here’s an opening prayer inspired by Psalm 113.  It comes from the Christian Aidwebsite.

Opening Prayer

(inspired by Psalm 113)

God of all life,

beyond our imagining, and yet coming so close;

you refuse to leave those in need on the rubbish dump.

You give the poor a place of dignity among the powerful.

You make a home for the homeless,’

and bring joy abounding to families and communities.


As we gather to celebrate and give thanks

for your harvest of blessing,

may we live within your reality,

share your vision,

and do your will,

that the whole earth may echo your glory. Amen.

~ from Ideas for Harvest: Worship and Prayer, posted on the Christian Aidwebsite.


Call to Worship: Psalm 113 from worshipblogspot*


Come and praise, you servants of God!

Praise the name of Yahweh!

May God’s name be blessed

both now and forever.

From east to west, from north to south,

praise the name of Yahweh!

May God’s name be blessed

both now and forever.

Who can compare to our God?

Seated high above the nations of the earth,

God’s glory fills the skies.

May God’s name be blessed

both now and forever.


Call to Worship by Barb Hedges-Goettl; please give credit if using/adapting:

[One] From the rising of the sun to where it sets

[Many] Let the name of the Lord be praised, now and forevermore.

The Lord is exalted over all nations. His glory is above the heavens.

Let the name of the Lord be praised, now and forevermore.

No one is like the Lord our God, enthroned on high but reaching down to earth.

Let the name of the Lord be praised, now and forevermore.

God raises up the poor to seat them with his princes.

Let the name of the Lord be praised, now and forevermore.

God overcomes barrenness, giving fruitfulness and joy.

Let the name of the Lord be praised, now and forevermore.


Call to Worship Litany: Psalm 113 from worshipblogspot*

Praise the Lord!

Yes, give praise, O servants of the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord!

Blessed be the name of the Lord
now and forever.


Everywhere—from east to west—
praise the name of the Lord.

For the Lord is high above the nations;
his glory is higher than the heavens.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
now and forever.


Who can be compared with the Lord our God,
who is enthroned on high?
He stoops to look down
on heaven and on earth.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
even the princes of his own people!
He gives the childless woman a family,
making her a happy mother.

Praise the Lord!

Blessed be the name of the Lord                                                                                                      now and forever.

PRAYER* are free to share (to copy, distribute and transmit the work), and remix (to adapt the work),  under the condition that you must give appropriate credit to The High Calling, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You should not suggest in any way that The High Calling or Theology of Work endorses you or your use of the work.

Gracious Lord, you are, indeed, enthroned above the highest heaven. You are great beyond greatness, glorious beyond glory. All praise be to you for your majesty and power and sovereignty!

Yet, in love and mercy, you look down upon us. And not only look, but reach down to help us. And not only reach, but come down to be with us in Jesus. And not only share life with us, but take our sin and bear it. How wonderful you are!

Thank you, dear Lord, for all the times you have reached down to help me. How good you are, how gracious and kind! May I live in the confidence of your grace today, giving it away to others.

In the name of Jesus, who humbled himself, Amen.


CONFESSION OF SIN  by Barb Hedges-Goettl. Please give credit if using/adapting for use.

*Call to Confession

For most of us, there are times when we do think too highly of ourselves. But sometimes we sin on the other side, thinking ourselves too lowly or unfit for God to care for us. But God loves us anyway. Let us confess our need to understand ourselves as created in God’s image.

*Prayer of Confession:

Although you created us and called us “very good,” sometimes we don’t believe it. We know our failings and shortfalls so well. We are afraid that you cannot still love us. But you know us for who we truly are. You know the places and spaces where we fall short. Forgive us for not trusting your love and forgiveness. Remake us so that we are more and more your people. (Silent confession)

Assurance of Pardon (Romans 5:6, 8 The Message)                                                                        Christ arrives right on time to save us. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. God in Christ put his love on the line, giving himself as a sacrifice when we were far too weak and rebellious to even do anything to get ourselves ready. Thanks be to God for this Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven

CONFESSION OF FAITH from PC(USA) Brief Statement of Faith (1983)

We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father.

In sovereign love God created the world good

and makes everyone equally in God’s image,

male and female, of every race and people,

to live as one community.

But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.

Ignoring God’s commandments.

we violate the image of God in others and ourselves,

accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature,

and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.


We deserve God’s condemnation.

Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.

In everlasting love,

the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people

to bless all families of the earth.

Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel

from the house of bondage.


Loving us still,

God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.

Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,

like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,

God is faithful still.


Therefore, with believers in every time and place,

we rejoice that nothing in life or in death

can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.



Psalm 113

The psalmis praises the high God who leans over to lift the poor. Either point this out verbally by going through the psalm finding all the high, low, and lifting words before reading it.  Or, line out the psalm with hand motions.  The latter is best done with the whole congregation but could be presented by a rehearsed children’s class who have been invited to be worship leaders by acting it out as you read it.

Psalm 113 with Motions

Praise the Lord!

Arms outstretched palms turned up

You servants of the Lord, praise his name!
Arms reaching out to the congregation

May his name be praised now and for ever.
Repeat outstretched arms with palms turned up.

From the east to the west praise the name of the Lord!

Point to the east, then arc arm to the west

The Lord rules over all nations; his glory is above the heavens.

      Bent arms out to the sides in an expression of power

There is no one like the Lord our God.
      Pointing up with one hand as in a teaching position


He lives in the heights above,

Look up and reach your arms overhead

but he bends down to see the heavens and the earth.

Lean over to look down moving your arms out to the 

He raises the poor from the dust;

Still leaning over cup your hands as if scooping up people 

he lifts the needy from their misery
raise your cupped hands a little


and makes them companions of princes,

raise your cupped hands to shoulder height

the princes of his people.

      Open cupped hands and reach out to your sides as if holding hands


He honours the childless wife in her home;

Hold arms down at your sides

he makes her happy by giving her children.

Rock a baby in your arms


Praise the Lord!

Raise hands in traditional praise position


Order of Worship


Welcome and Announcements

Mutual Greeting

Call to Worship:  Psalm 150

Opening Song: “Let All Things Now Living” PsH #453

God’s Greeting:  “Grace, mercy and peace be to us all in the name of the Father,

and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

Song of Praise:  “How Great Thou Art” PsH # 483


Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardon:  Psalm 130: 7,8

God’s Law:  Exodus 20:  1-17

Congregational Prayer



Hymn of Preparation:  “The Heavens Declare Your Glory” PsH # 429

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 113

Sermon:  “God of Small Things”

Prayer of Application:  “Father God, although we are so small, we praise you for seeing
us, caring for us, and calling each of us by name.   Help our lives to be a never-ending
chorus of praise to you and help that praise to be so contagious, that others will want to
join their voices to our voices and to the voice of all creation in praising you, from
whom all blessings flow!   Amen.”

Hymn of Response: “All Creatures of Our God and King” PsH # 431


Benediction:  “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, in the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.   Amen.”

Doxology:  “Praise God, from Whom all Blessings Flow”  PsH # 638


EXEGETICAL RESOURCES Situates the psalm within the psalter and the Bible itself and briefly addresses the theme of barrenness* God’s condescension as a positive; includes Philippians 2*

Reflection on God lowering Godself in Psalm 113 explores how God lifts the poor and needy* From the folks at Working Preacher but from the RCL use of the Psalm, this commentary addresses the literary structure and repeated phrases of the psalm, incl. the “name” in Hebrew scripture; Also refers to Ex. 3:7-8: God’s promise of a homeland to Israel and 1 Samuel 2:2,5,8: Hannah’s Song.* Also from the RCL side from Working Preacher. Addresses the poetic/dynamic, arts-related nature of the psalms, then this particular psalm as championing those in poverty, need and childlessness and promising them a day of justice. Mentions “prayer without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).* gives a scholarly view of the historical context of this psalm in Israel’s life. Although the NL proposes Psalm 113 as an example of Brueggemann’s category of “Orientation: When life is stable and the world seems trustworthy,” the context instead may be that of displacement and thus disorientation. One could use this to discuss what it means to be a poor and marginalized church that an identify with the poor and the barren one instead of a rich and mainstream church that is more likely to identify elsewhere. Calvin’s commentary on Ps. 113  Compendium of various commentaries on Psalm 113; includes cross-references, some word study, some hymns. Access to various resources on the psalm; site itself is on “conservative” side   Verse by verse commentary Charles H. Spurgeon’s verse by verse commentary. Matthew Henry’s verse by verse commentary A commentary from the perspective of stewardship of creation. Have to admit I didn’t really see/acknowledge this part of the psalm until reading this brief corrective. The short bit on this psalm reads:  “Psalm 113, [is] a “hymn celebrating the Lord as helper of the humble,” as our NRSV note states it. The Psalter was the first great hymnbook of God’s people, and its at-homeness within the creation is known to all. Even here, where the focus is on raising up the poor and lifting the needy, the psalmist thinks of their Lord as being first the Lord of the creation (Lord of time, “from the rising of the sun to its setting,” no less than Lord of the nations with “his glory above the heavens”), the One who uses the creation to “rescue the perishing.” This Psalm, along with Psalm 114, is sung before the Jewish Passover meal. There it stands as reminder of our opportunities and obligations within both Creation and Covenant…. the bond between Creation and Covenant …enables and requires us to care for the needy by attending to our use of the gifts (not “resources” for exploitation) within the creation.” Audio of Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 113:1-4. Deadly delivery. Outline & video of worship service based on Psalm 113 from Calvin Worship Institute




Today we are beginning a four-part Narrative Lectionary series on the Psalms

This series will take us on a journey from Orientation (today)

to Disorientation (next week)

to Reorientation (the final 2 weeks)


Today’s Psalm informs our lives of faith as “oriented”

What does it mean to be “oriented”?

Pastor Len knows about this from his work as a psychologist;

he looks at whether people are oriented “times three”

in terms of person, time and place

Does the person undergoing the psychological evaluation know who they are

when it is and

where they are?


We all have times when we feel disoriented—

If we awake unexpectedly from a deep sleep, especially if we are in a different place

If we have changed time zones (or just moved to or from Daylight Savings Zones)

If an important landmark enroute to a place we always go has changed

If something we thought to be true turns out to be utterly false

Then we can become disoriented


Pastor Barb admits to being directionally challenged

For folks who are directionally challenged, being disoriented happens all too often

She blames this problem on her mother (who was also directionally challenged)

Pastor Barb’s mom always parked the same place at the mall

Even if she was going to the whole other end of the mall—

At least then she’d know where she parked

Pastor Barb’s mom would take a daytime ride to places she needed to drive to at night

Figuring then at least she had a prayer

(Pastor Barb is beginning to understand this one better!)


Now, this lack of orientation with regard to directions has an upside

At least for Barb and her mom…

It is accompanied by an uncanny ability to tell time without a clock

Barb can name the time (without looking) within a minute or two

In fact, Len teases her if she is more than 5 minutes off, since it rarely happens.


To be oriented means to peg oneself in relationship to something that is stable, constant

It comes from the Latin word “Orient,” which means the East (from Rome)

When teaching science to students with intellectual disabilities a few years ago,

Pastor Barb came across the Peep videos.

Peep is a stick figure chick with stick figure friends who unfold science to kids.

In one episode, Quack the duck tried to give directions to his pond to a beaver

But he kept giving directions in terms of things that weren’t constant

He gave directions according to the clouds

according to a green grasshopper—and his own feet!

This happens to adults when they take a new job

And people explain things to them as though they already know the system

Without giving enough orientation as to context


purpose, and


(At Pastor Barb’s current school, the paper files kept by the case manager for each student are the “soft files” as opposed to the “hard files” kept by admin, not as opposed to the unprinted files on the computer!!)


Being oriented requires having—and sharing—a frame of reference.


Psalm 113 orients believers by locating them in relationship to God

This orientation starts—and ends—with praise.

Although translated “Praise the Lord,”

the beginning and end of the psalm “Halleluyah”


Hallelu means praise and yah is short for God (Yahweh)

Ok, so halleluyah does actually mean Praise the Lord—

but not in the way we usually hear it

We tend to hear it as a statement: “Praise the Lord”

Or a request “Let us praise the Lord.”

But the verb is actually in its command form: “You-all (or even all y’all) praise the Lord”

It’s a demand: “Get up and start singing.”

It’s an order: “Do it”—praise, that is


Now this directive for praise is actually not found throughout the psalms

It pops up in Psalm 22, but it doesn’t start appearing regularly in the psalms until #104


Scholars believe the psalms are arranged to tell a story

The first part (through Psalm 89) tells the story of Israel through the story of King David

And then—David is no longer king and the people have to figure out what that means

The answer is found in the psalms that proclaim God as king, not only over Israel

but over all nations

and all creation

And after this kingship of God has been established,

The psalms close with a demand for praise—because of who God is

and because of who God’s people are

God’s people—then and now—are oriented by their faith in God

and by their praise of God







This command to praise God assumes God’s praiseworthiness

It is based on the idea that when we really know God, we can’t help erupting in praise


Have you ever been to an event where applause arose not as a matter of course

but as a heartfelt outpouring of appreciation?

Have you been in such a beautiful place that,

as one woman remarked in the Redwood Forest, you felt like singing?


Sometimes it sounds funny to our ears to say we should praise God—

as though God’s ego needs to be stroked.

But this command to praise God assumes God’s praiseworthiness

It is based on the idea that when we really know God, we can’t help erupting in praise


Have you ever been to an event where applause arose not as a matter of course

but as a heartfelt outpouring of appreciation?

Have you been in such a beautiful place that,

as one woman remarked in the Redwood Forest, you felt like singing?


CS Lewis (who wrote the Narnia books in the book box!) notes our praise now

is like the tuning up of the heavenly chorus of praise

It’s just the beginning of responding whole-heartedly to the reality of who God is

what God has done

what God is doing


One preacher illustrated this by telling of a widowed son who did everything for her son

Slaving day and night to provide for him

Putting his welfare above her own

And eventually calling him to account for not living up to her sacrifice

Would we fault her for asking her son to thank her by making something of himself?

To recognize all that she has done for her not only in praise and thanks

but by who becomes?

Would we consider her rude or arrogant?

Or would we understand this is the least the son could do?


This model, in which God has done all for us

and in return we praise and thank God

integrating God’s care for use into who we become,

is the orientation of Psalm 113


God has done everything for us

God is great and greatly to be praised

God is high above us all—

God has to stoop down even to reach the heavens!

And God is interested in human beings—

Way below the heavens


God is even interested in the lowest of human beings

The poor and the barren

God, the most powerful, is more interested in the powerless than in power


Therefore the command to praise here is directed to the servants of the Lord—

To the ones who know God

To the ones who know that they owe everything to God

To the ones who know that they belong to God

And praising God not only expresses that we belong to God

It actually helps bring about that belonging


In acting, there are two ways to come at expressing an emotion

If one is trying to express anger one can either think of something that brings out anger

Or one can think about what anger looks like on the outside and put that one

Putting anger on from the outside in can then seep into the actor

And result not only in looking angry, but also in feeling anger


Sometimes this is called “Fake it till you make it.”

Acting as if can bring about the reality that wasn’t there yet.


There’s a big emphasis in popular culture and popular psychology about gratitude

Naming 3-5 things that you are grateful for each day can change your outlook

But, to the Christian—as to the writer of our Psalm—we are not just grateful

We are grateful to someone; we are grateful to God


We know, as they say, where our bread is buttered

It’s not about hard work

or about luck

Let’s practice saying “God be with you” to people instead of “Good luck!”

or about which particular party is in power and how we relate to that party

We know that our lives depend on the living God

We know that our touchpoint

our guide

our cornerstone is God


And this kind of relationship goes beyond words and thoughts to the heart

That’s why we have the poetry of the psalms

That’s why we have the language of art and music

That’s why we can reflect

and also imagine

That’s shy we can also discover

and play


Because God is bigger than what we think

And a relationship is more than knowing about someone

It is knowing someone


As J.B. Phillips put it in his book so long ago: “Your God is Too Small.”

The real, true God is way bigger than our ideas of God

So big that, as this psalm says, praising God runs from here to forever

praising God runs from sunrise to sunset

from sun-up to sundown

praising God runs from the far east to the western horizon

praising God runs from above the heavens to the dungheap


Given that the God we praise reaches out to the poor and the barren

downtrodden and the despairing

And given that we proclaim this God as the orientation of our lives

We are commanded not only to praise but to act out our praise

Joining in the actions of God

Joining in reaching out to the poor and the barren

to the downtrodden and despairing


For the Israelites, this psalm likely hit them as they fell from grace

As they moved from having their own kingdom to being dispossessed

From having their own country to being ruled by others

In the face of their new dis-location (despite their rich history)

They have arrived at a greater understanding of oppression & potential hopelessness


In some ways, this is not so dramatically different from the church today,

which has been removed from its central place in American society in the 1950s

to a life much closer to the margins.

The church is now much less allied with the powers-that-be

And more clearly aligned with the powerless, with those who struggle to be heard

We are in a place & time to more strongly discover our alliance with the poor & hopeless

Causing us to continue to praise God’s power

And God’s reach to the powerless

And to join ourselves to that work.


In this church, this means

The food pantry

The prayer ministry

The phone and card ministry—and what else?

You tell me!


We praise God.

We rely on God

We join with God

We reach out to the powerless in all the ways that God calls us.


Halleluyah! Praise the Lord. Amen.