Jesus’ Use of the Psalms

Over the coming days on our blog we will be hearing from some of the speakers who will be sharing at our Psalms Conference on June 11th. Today’s entry is from Jim Davis, who will be leading the breakout session “Jesus’ Use of the Psalms.” Click here to learn more and register for the conference.


Luke-Acts is the longest continuous narrative of the gospel and it’s the only one that includes an account of how Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven was understood by his followers.  That understanding re-shaped their Christology (their understanding of who Jesus really was and what he had really done) and their sense of their own identity and their mission and purpose.

In this seminar we’ll explore the way that the Psalms played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life from the time of his birth, through his ministry, during his passion, and after his resurrection as the Holy Spirit he breathed into his followers guided them to discover how to use the Psalms in life-changing ways.  We’ll point out some of those ways and learn very practically how we can use the Psalms in the same ways as Jesus and his first followers did.


Jim received his PhD in New Testament in 1982 from the University of Nottingham mentored by Dr. J.D.G. Dunn. He has taught and pastored since then, including as Senior Pastor of CKPres from 1999-2007. He will be teaching New Testament for Gordon-Conwell Seminary and previously taught courses for Fuller Seminary from 1992 until his retirement this year. In 2019 he retired as Senior Pastor/Head of Staff at a suburban Houston congregation.

A Quiet Little Psalm for Noisy Brains

Over the coming days on our blog we will be hearing from some of the speakers who will be sharing at our Psalms Conference on June 11th. Today’s entry is from Joe Bettridge, who will be leading the breakout session “A Quiet Little Psalm for Noisy Brains.” Click here to learn more and register for the conference.


Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance.

I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me.

Instead, I am content and at peace.

As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.

Israel, trust in the Lord now and forever

Psalm 131

During the late 1920s, physicist Harry Nyquist and electrical engineer Ralph Hartley investigated how information is transmitted. From their research came the distinction between what is called “noise and signal.” A meaningful signal contains understandable information, while noise is the random clatter of unintelligible sounds that interfere with the signal. Think of trying to tune in to a radio station and getting a lot of static. Worry is a signal that sometimes means you are sensing some genuine danger. But most of our worries are just agitating noises in our heads thrust upon us by the devil, the world, and our sin-damaged souls.

Psalm 131 is my favorite Psalm. But it is a peculiar Psalm. First, because it is the shortest Psalm in the Bible. Secondly, it begins with a seemingly anti-intellectual notion quite angular to our educated sensibilities. Consider Verse One, where David says: “I am not concerned with great matters or topics too difficult for me.” What is he saying here? Are we not to read challenging books, think deeply about current events, or go to graduate school? Our little Psalm tells us that these questions miss the deeper point, that our problem is ‎not that we are ignorant and need better information but that we ‎are lost ‎and stuck and dying and need ‎Jesus.

Notice how this Psalm itself has both a philosophical and practical side. The Psalmist is proclaiming is the futility of fretting over things that we cannot change. It is the Biblical basis for the Serenity Prayer.’ “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”

Psalm 131 presents us with the wonderful truth that we can actually hear God’s life-giving signal communicating with us from beyond all the noise in our culture and especially in our own heads. Much of what happens to us in this world is incomprehensible. We can’t make sense of “great matters.” We can’t separate the signal from the noise. But God hasn’t called us to make sense of everything but simply to trust in Jesus Christ, who is God’s clear signal to us even as John 1:18 explains: “No one has ever seen God. But God’s the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, has made God known to us.”

Come join me in exploring Psalm 131, where our noisy brains can seek God’s calming Presence in this quiet little Psalm.


Joe recently completed 46 years of pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church and now is an honorably retired member of Northwest Coast Presbytery. Joe came to faith in the First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma and was spiritually nurtured at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. He has served long term pastorates in Alaska, Arizona and recently in Friday Harbor, WA. Joe graduated from Stadium High in Tacoma and the University of Washington. He received his Master of Divinity, Master of Theology and Doctorate of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Becce, are delighted to now be part of the CKPC family.

The Psalms Really Messed Me Up!

Over the coming days on our blog we will be hearing from some of the speakers who will be sharing at our Psalms Conference on June 11th. Today’s entry is from John Haberlin, who will be leading the breakout session “The Psalms as Pictograph: A Look at Acrostic Psalms.” Click here to learn more and register for the conference.


I was a commuting student to Seattle Pacific College (now University) from 1959 to 1963. Students that lived within the Seattle City Limits could not stay on campus because of the student housing shortage.

I was raised in a very conservative, fundamentalist congregation that stressed the Bible as the “Word of God.” The implication was that scripture had basically been dictated (though I don’t remember actually hearing that but it was just “the way it was”). It was here that I spent my non-student hours as “Youth Director.”

As one of SPC’s requirements, we had to take Bible courses … and foolishly I signed up for Psalms, taught by Dr. Joseph Davis. Of course, I was from a “Bible Believing Church” so obviously I was going to cinch this course … “Look, out “A” I’ve got you aced!” What do you mean a “D” on my first test? I was overwhelmed with confusion. It was like I was in a foreign land and they were speaking a language different from mine.

At that time in history the King James Version was the only available translation; except for a few less known and more “scholarly” translations from England. The landslide of translations was yet come. When I heard God “speak” it was always in KJV English. Every word was equal. To consider the context, the style, the purpose, the words used was meaningless. Now I was presented with an even more subtle concept that was like a foreign language to me. Well, indeed it was a foreign language, yes, even two ancient languages: “Hebrew!” I didn’t even understand it and it was written in weird “hen scratches.” Didn’t God speak KJ English???? And then, of course Greek … well, kind of, a rather “pop form” of Greek and not that of the philosophers … common everyday language. (Yes, the Psalms were translated into Greek by the time Jesus was born). As I focused on a Greek minor I was forced to take “classical Greek”as well and let me tell you, there is no comparison – kind of like trying to speed read the Hebrew of the very different “Job” in the Old Testament.

Back to Psalms: For the first time I had to struggle with a first domino and I was beginning to see that there were some other dominos off in the distance that if that first one fell, I feared that all heck was going happen. Threatening! Scary! Confusing! My simplistic world was beginning to crash. Thank you Lord, Jesus!

It was a tough lesson but one that I am so grateful for. I came to understand that God was not sitting on a cloud dictating through telepathy to the writers of the books of the Bible. No! God was encountering people, somewhat like you and me, in the real world in which we live. The scribes of the Psalms (Yes, plural! and No! David didn’t write them all) were real people, maybe even a bit bi-polar, just like people I know including the one I see from time to time in the mirror. Some were filled with faith. Some reeked of despair. Psalms were poetry, pondered contemplatively with each word a picture, sometimes with acrostic magic. Some were angry. Some I just don’t get. However, what I have come to understand and deeply respect is that God is in each psalm, engaged with real living people like you and me. They speak the whole spectrum of human life. Amazingly we are allowed to hear God’s faithful people vehemently yelling at God, praising God and you name it. God was and is in the Psalms in every corner of life right where we live.

This encounter with the Psalms in Dr. Davis’ class was an open door to me (though the final grade didn’t show it but what a good lesson for me) to move to the rest of scripture. I developed a passion for the original languages, especially the Greek of the New Testament but also for the Hebrew of the Old. I became engrossed in meeting the writers of each book of the compendium we call “The Book” (ultimately not a helpful term). I tried to meet the writers where they lived and hear them as they encountered God in their circumstances just like I am led to do in my life. As a pastor, one of my chief goals was to bring people into an encounter with the Living God which I truly believe is the goal of the LOGOS written and empowered by God’s Holy Gust (some people refer to tou hagiou pneumatos as the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit but I prefer the insight of a young friend of mine “The Holy Gust” (pneumatic – English transliteration of the Greek).

I’m not sure that generally the Psalms are written to be studies with great depth (though I am so thankful for those who have studied them deeply and brought out insights we could seldom discover on our own). What I am thankful for is the unique ability of the Psalms, one here and one there, to hit us right where we are living in that moment. Their ability to identify with our deepest thoughts is beyond human origin. They truly are divine …No! They are more powerful than a divine dictum. The Psalms are encounters with real humans, living real human lives and emotions in the presence of the Eternal and Ever Present God. Emmanuel, God with us.


John grew up in West Seattle, attended Seattle Pacific, Fuller Seminary and received his DMin from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. He began at Westminster Presbyterian in Yakima, moved to First Presbyterian in Hayward, California, served as founding pastor of CKPC, was Associate for Church Growth at General Assembly, and finally pastor at Harrison Square Presbyterian in Centralia. He is married to his lifelong friend, Pamela. They have three children and six grandchildren.

New Conversations with an Old Friend

Over the coming days on our blog we will be hearing from some of the speakers who will be sharing at our Psalms Conference on June 11th. First up is Becce Bettridge, who will be leading the breakout session “New Conversations with an Old Friend” Click here to learn more and register for the conference.


There is something very special about a long-time friendship. I have known my friend, Leslie Mauermann, since she sat behind me in AP US History when we were both juniors at Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California. She was the first to know that I thought I was falling in love with my husband, Joe. She took me to church and shared her “white gloves,” a requirement (apparently) at Arcadia Presbyterian Church in 1968. We were in each other’s weddings. I wept on the phone with her when she filed for a divorce. She wept with me when I miscarried my first pregnancy. She knows me as well as anyone alive…and yet we continue to surprise and delight each other as we share how we are growing, and the myriad of ways God is showing up in our lives. Ours continues to be a comfortable, but evolving, friendship.

Many of us, who have known Psalm 23 for most of our lives, tend to come to it with practiced eyes. We know what it says, we have heard the familiar phrases before. But one of the joys of reading scripture, is that it has the ability to surprise and touch us in new ways each time we engage with it. Particularly, when we slow down and ponder the words meditatively. The writer of Lamentations reminds us, “God’s mercies are new every morning (3:23).

  • How is God like my shepherd?
  • Is God inviting me to rest in “green pastures” … stick my feet in a quite stream?
  • When did God walk with me through the shadow of death? Did I know God was there as promised?
  • Is God preparing a table for me right now? What’s God serving?

All these questions, and more, come to us quietly when we engage slowly and prayerfully with this Psalm.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson grabs our attention by translating the final verses of Psalm 23:

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

An old friend…seen through fresh eyes. Come join us as we welcome God to speak to us in a very personal, perhaps even new, way through this beloved psalm.


Becce has been a spiritual director since 2009 and holds certifications from both Monastery of the Risen Christ in Santa Barbara and Christian Formation & Direction Ministries in Seattle. She holds a BA in Communication and Literature, a Master of Biblical Studies, and has studied spiritual direction and dream work with the Haden Institute in North Carolina.

The Spiritual Aspect of Peas

Guest post by Stephanie Sweeney

In a series of blog posts, several of us have been exploring the question of why a community garden makes good sense for a church. For many of us, the reasons for a community garden are self-evident. But whether or not we need persuasion, we’ll find the reasons are even more extensive than we may have realized. In today’s post, the director of our community garden, Stephanie Sweeney looks at the “spiritual aspect of peas.”

The Spiritual Aspect of Peas

I find God in the garden, everyday. The sunstrokes streaming through the pussy willow tree’s branches warm the soil and motivate the seeds I planted to wake. As the pea plant’s cotyledons (the first leaves to appear) break the ground and unfurl, I can seriously laugh out loud. How the heck did that happen? How is God so good?

I’m not sure if you who are reading this can understand the joy I find in these garden moments, but I’m sure you understand the joy of new life. We humans can’t resist it. The appearance of a new, fresh, living thing reminds us of God’s faithfulness and fulfills our God-given desire to “fill the earth” and “be fruitful and increase in number.” Yet, the only way we can pursue this mandate is to eat food, food that originates in plants (even the chicken or cow you ate today was eating plants at some point too), which is why I think I find joy in gardening. A sprouting pea plant not only means new life for the plant, but it means life for me, my husband, and my neighbors in the form of nurturing sustenance.

Have you ever thought of eating as a spiritual exercise? The Lord’s Supper might come to mind, but I am talking about day-to-day eating– breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Norman Wirzba writes,

At it’s best, eating is a sharing and welcoming movement that makes room for others… We don’t really understand food until we perceive, receive, and taste it in terms of its origin and end in God as the one who provides for, communes with, and ultimately reconciles creation. Food is God’s love made nutritious and delicious, given for the good of each other. The mundane act of eating is thus a daily invitation to move responsibly and gratefully within this given life. It is a summons to commune with the divine Life that is presupposed and made manifest in every bite.

(from Food and Faith, xi).

Wirzba discusses in his book Food and Faith (an INCREDIBLE book, by the way), that as humans we are inextricably linked to the land and the gardens around us by our stomachs. We need food in order to survive, and that food originates in a garden of some sorts. The growth of this garden is utterly dependent on God’s providence, his grace, his loving sustenance. In other words, every bite of food we take declares God’s life-giving love for us.

If we view food as a tangible expression of God’s love, this leads me to two thoughts: where our food comes from and how that source speaks to how we value God’s gift, and how we share that tangible sign of God’s love with others.

It’s no surprise that most of our food does not come from small-scale, organic gardens. Most of our food, over 50% in the US, is grown on large-scale industrial farms which often use harsh chemicals, degrade the land, decrease biodiversity, influence human health negatively, and cause extreme pollution. The benefit of this terrible system is that now our food is more affordable, but there are hidden costs. The treatment of the creation and the flourishing of life is not honored in this current system. If the creation is God’s expression of love and hospitality, maybe Christians need to rethink their view of food production and consider how where their food comes from is actually important to consider. As Wendell Berry put it,

The question that must be addressed is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others.

Growing a church garden organically, mindfully, lovingly, with an attentiveness for the natural rhythms God has set in place, will produce food that honors God via honoring the relationships we have with nature and neighbor. “God’s character is revealed in Genesis as the love that enables the life of another to be itself. Gardening work is thus potentially a powerful demonstration and extension of God’s own work, for what gardeners do is nurture the conditions in which life can take root and grow” (Wirzba, Food and Faith, 91).

What better way to minister to those in our community than to share with them God’s life giving gifts, grown in a way that honors all our connections: to God, to humans, and to creation? This is why I believe in a church garden. This is why I believe that the joy I find in pea sprouts can give life and joy to others who are in need of it. It is God’s love and hospitality for us to share.

The Seventh Day – Genesis 2:1-4

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | July 5, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Today: Genesis 2:1-4.


The Seventh Day

The ancient rabbis saw
that it was the seventh day
in which creation was completed.
Not a bonus day, not a day of recuperation
in order to make the Six Days' work
possible or more efficient. 
No.
The telos of Creation, towards which
the six days are always moving.

Tasks and to-do lists lie
in their places untouched
Statuses and identities of the
workday world are unimportant
and forgotten;
all are at rest in the "palace in time,"
impregnable walls fortified against
the onslaught and tyranny of things
the six-day conquest of space.

Turbines and trucks and tractors 
power down
Blue glow of unread emails and Reddit's rabbit trails
and Instagram's filtered reality and Facebook's fury
now a dull black.

The sudden Interruption of noise
gives rise to what first appears
as eerie silence but is not silence.
The sounds of the Seventh Day 
now no longer unnoticed:
conversation unhurried
laughter unfettered
suppers savored and unrushed
Doves cooing in aspens rattling 
their leaves in gentle wind
Spirit songs and people's prayers
Stop.
Cease.
Sabbath.
The Seventh Day.

[1] “Pilgrim bound by staff and faith, rest thy bones”, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54922 [retrieved July 5, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wooden_pilgrim_-_geograph.org.uk_-_778390.jpg

The Sixth Day – Genesis 1:24-31

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | July 4, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Today: Genesis 1:24-31.


The Sixth Day

Like rereading a kind text or note from
a loved one sent hours or minutes before
their unexpected passing or
gazing at the photograph of a joyful moment
together with friends taken the day before
the world turned on its head: Sept 10, '01
or December 6, '41 or New Year's on the eve
of 2020, smiling faces unaware of ominous
thunderclouds fast approaching on the horizon,
so is reading the account of the Sixth Day:
a happy memory turned melancholy
by future tragedy, a reminder of what was
and what could have been.

The Imago Dei, 
the Crown of Creation
moved by Pride 
soon forgot in whose image they were made
soon forgot they were created
soon forgot their fellow humans were also 
made in their Creator's image
soon forgot the earth was given to them to be 
received with thanks, not taken by force;
soon forsook their calling to steward
choosing instead to plunder, the only
creatures capable of not being what they were 
created to be.

The Imago Dei; desecrated but not destroyed
defaced but not effaced, in need of redemption
but not irredeemable
Redeemed by One Uncreated who alone was now capable
of being what these creatures were created to be,
who was taken by force, plundered, crucified
forgotten and forsaken
moved by Love,
the Crown of Thorns on
the Imago Dei.

The Sixth Day a reminder of what was and
what could have been and
a glimpse of what one day will fully be
glimpsed now in the face of my friend who
devotes his life to those with 
mental illnesses forgotten by others,
glimpsed now in the hands of the vet 
caring for the injured roadside deer,
glimpsed now in the feet of the farmer
walking her field once more in unending
cycle of love and labor, her patch of planet
received to steward, to grow, to give:
the Imago Dei
the Sixth Day.

[1] Raimondi, Marcantonio, ca. 1480-ca. 1534. Adam and Eve, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=50226 [retrieved July 4, 2020]. Original source: http://www.mfa.org/.

The Fifth Day – Genesis 1:20-23

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | July 3, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Today: Genesis 1:20-23.


The Fifth Day

Consider the birds of the air
Unburdened in freefalling flight
It is almost as if God forgot
to tell the fifth day creatures of gravity

Broadtailed hummingbirds dart,
dash, dance, zip, flit, fling, streak,
swim through air from fuschia to fuschia;
painted buntings plunge, a blur of color 
diving before switching direction 
to resurface on the limb of a tree;
falcons float effortlessly on the wind's waves
like a spread-eagle snorkeler passively surveying
the world below in objective observance.

Salmon soar through open ocean before 
annual upstream spawning, their very nature
seeming to defy nature;
angelfish like stunt planes loop, flip, fly
in easy freedom as moon jellies hover in haunted 
weightlessness, suspended above the floor below.

Birds swarm in the waters above like fish in flight
Sea creatures swarm in the waters below like
underwater aviators, each a reminder of
the limits of gravity's persistent pull,
nearly every corner of creation now
stocked and teeming with life,
The Fifth Day.

[1] Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57542 [retrieved July 2, 2020]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dharma_for_one/8111513291/ – Janetandphil

The Fourth Day – Genesis 1:14-19

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | July 2, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Today: Genesis 1:14-19.


The Fourth Day

I am on my deck in early darkness when it happens:
The clouds, as if painted with liberal oil brushstrokes
by some Impressionist artist
turn apocalyptic pink;
a revealing of the world splashed with
colors forgotten by night 
now irradiated by perfect golden hue,
the flowers and trees yawn and begin
their daylong photosynthetic stretch 
toward this giver of life: 
the Sun.

I am walking back to my dorm in cold alpine air
after a late shift in a summer job at 
the Paradise Inn when I see it:
the mountain. Rainier is not hidden
by night but all 14,000 feet from my feet
to the slopes of the summit are seen in 
unexpected luminosity: miles of glacier glowing
phosphorescent, a reflection of reflected light:
The Moon.

I am deep in a desert canyon miles
from manmade illumination of metropolis and city
The sky hangs above me like a porous black canvas
trying to hold back the very light of Heaven which
bursts through in millions of little places:
The Stars.

Gazing up into space I am transported out of time
into the fullness of this Present
unaware of growing awareness of my smallness,
warmed by the faint breath of eternity invading time.

No wonder so many worshiped 
Sun, Moon and Stars in holy reverence!
What wonder that Ancient Hebrews living 
under the brilliance of Middle Eastern sun,
gazing at the mystery of the moon
and spectacle of the stars did not bow
in worship, but knew even these are creation:
The Fourth Day.

[1] Snowstorm of Stars, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56825 [retrieved July 1, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_snowstorm_of_stars.jpg

The Third Day – Genesis 1:9-13

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | July 1, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Today: Genesis 1:9-13.


The Third Day

In a few simple words, Dry Land is created:
wind and glacier worn flanks of
Annapurna, Blanc, Cerro Bonete, Denali
an endless alphabet of soaring ice and granite
River-carved canyons and caverns
Plateaus and plains

Yet.
It is the afternoon's events 
that receive the attention:
Life.

The third day of creation 
yet the first day in which God saw
how good creation was
letting out a mirthful laugh
delighted at these creatures
capable of re-creating and recreating:

Mountain meadows awash with flowers
bringing a full palette of new color 
into this new creation
Roses of Sharon and Lily of the Valley 
and the lillies of the field
Cedars of Lebanon and Saguaros of Sonora 
and Sequoias of California clapping their hands
and bursting into song
each one breathing, growing, alive
each one sacred, created and re-creating
each one very good.
The Third Day.

[1] van Gogh, Vincent. Olive Trees, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56501 [retrieved June 30, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Olive_Trees_-_Google_Art_Project_(Minneapolis_Institute_of_Arts).jpg