Sunday, January 07, 2007

Psalm 29 - “Ascribe, Attribute, Assign, Accredit”

Baptism of Our Lord
Saturday, January 6, and Sunday, January 7, 2007

Look with me at Psalm 29 which is printed for you on the front of your bulletins. I want to read through the psalm and talk about why this psalm is selected for today’s date in the Church Year: the Baptism of Our Lord. We’ll walk through this psalm and
see the connections to the Baptism of Jesus and also connections to our baptisms.

So let me begin by reading the psalm.


OK, perhaps we should stop right there. What does it mean to “ascribe”? That’s a verb, and this psalm is calling on the angels, the saints who are in heaven, and us to “ascribe.” It’s kind of hard to follow through on this instruction if we don’t know what it mean to ascribe.

One of way of thinking about it is to look at the word itself: a-scribe. Scribe. A scribe is a writer, one who writes something down. So to “ascribe” is to do the action of a scribe.

Therefore, Psalm 29 is calling on us to be scribes, to write something down about the Lord. You may want to do some ascribing on your bulletins, but I’ll also do some ascribing up here in front.

(put up pole with “LORD” on a poster attached to the top)

We can define ascribe by using some other words—which also happen to start with the letter “a”: attribute, assign, accredit. To ascribe means to attribute a quality to someone or something, to assign an adjective to describe that person or thing, to give that person or thing credit for having a certain quality. By posting qualities here on this pole, we will ascribe, attribute, assign, accredit the LORD with certain qualities.

Having done our definition and grammar on the first word of Psalm 29, now we can walk through the psalm and do just what it says: Ascribe to the LORD, give the Lord credit for certain qualities.

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

(put “Glory” and “Strength” on the pole)

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

This verse is a good reminder that our English translations often have “Lord” where the original Hebrew used the personal name for God: Yahweh. That’s the case here, too. Where you see “Lord” in verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 29 that title is standing in for God’s personal name, Yahweh. So, then, if we’re really going to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name,” we should switch LORD with Yahweh.

(use ladder to replace “LORD” with “Yahweh” on the pole)

The psalm continues: Worship the Lord [Worship Yahweh] in the splendor of holiness.

(put “Holiness” on the pole)

The next section of Psalm 29 talks about praising God as the Creator of the world. Emma, one of our 7th grade youth, was talking about worshipping God this week, and she said, “God makes the history that we worship.” That’s exactly what’s going on here in Psalm 29; we’re worshipping God for the history He made, the things He made happen, the world that He created. What God has done causes us to respond with our worship and praise. To change Emma’s phrase a little bit, “God makes the history that we ascribe to Him.” We ascribe, attribute, assign, accredit God with being the One who created the world.

So then, verse 4: The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

(put “Power” and “Majesty” on the pole)

Then after praising Yahweh for all the different ways that the Creation shows His power and majesty, then we come to verse 10:
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

(put “Forever” on the pole)
The last one there is like saying God will forever be all of these things; we are ascribing to Him qualities that will eternally be God’s. We have ascribed, attributed, assigned, accredited Yahweh with all of these qualities: glory, strength, holiness, power, majesty, and He will forever have glory, strength, holiness, power, and majesty.

This is connected to the Baptism of Jesus, Psalm 29 is a psalm for today, because Yahweh Himself ascribes these qualities to His Son. When Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River, suddenly a voice from heaven, the voice of God the Father, says, “You are beloved My Son; in You I am well pleased.” God is saying that all of these qualities are also in His Son.

(use ladder to replace “Yahweh” with “Jesus” on the pole)

All of the glory, strength, holiness, power, majesty, all of the eternal qualities of Yahweh are also seen in Jesus. Because of this event, we know that Jesus has all of the qualities that we ascribe to Yahweh. Jesus isn’t less than the Father. When we put the Name of Jesus at the top of the pole, we don’t have to take away any of these qualities. What Psalm 29 says about Yahweh, it also says about Jesus the Son.

It doesn’t matter that Jesus was born in a humble stable. It doesn’t matter than Jesus was born to a simple carpenter’s family. It doesn’t matter that you couldn’t tell that Jesus was God just by looking at Him. It doesn’t matter that Jesus humbled Himself and was baptized like we were. It doesn’t matter that Jesus would go on to suffer and die like a common criminal. None of those un-glorious, un-strong, unholy, un-powerful, un-majestic, un-forever things could change the truth about Jesus: He is the Son of God, born from eternity, sent to save all people from their sins.

When Jesus was baptized, most people still had no idea that Jesus was any different than anyone else. When Jesus was baptized, it marked the beginning of His ministry. When Jesus was baptized, it wasn’t like the crowds were all standing on the banks of the river singing Psalm 29 and saying that the psalm was about Jesus. No one really saw or understood who Jesus was, and so God the Father Himself follows the instructions of Psalm 29. God the Father ascribes, attributes, assigns, accredits these eternal qualities to Jesus, meaning that when we see Jesus, we see all of these tremendous qualities of God the Father.

So today, the day when the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord, today is about ascribing the eternal qualities of Yahweh to Jesus. Today is about seeing that Jesus is everything that God the Father is. Today is about lifting up Jesus as the beloved Son of God.

Yet, there’s one more way that we can switch this pole. There’s one more thing that Psalm 29 teaches us. We can ascribe, attribute, assign, accredit these qualities to one more person. The key to understanding this comes in the last verse of Psalm 29:

May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Jesus didn’t come to keep all of these eternal qualities and gifts to Himself; Jesus came to share. And we saw some of the sharing happen this morning during the baptism.

(use ladder to replace “Jesus” with “Aubrey” on the pole)

Through baptism, God brings us into His family. He adopts us as His own children. And while Jesus is the first-born Son of God, Jesus says that He will share His inheritance with us. God the Father has promised to give everything to His Son, and now His Son has promised to share all of those blessings with us.

So while it may seem strange here today to say that these things can all be ascribed to Aubrey, or be ascribed to any one of us, it’s certainly true through Christ. While we don’t worship Aubrey or worship one another, while we don’t think of ourselves as deserving praise and honor like Jesus and God the Father, these qualities have been ascribed, attributed, assigned, accredited to you.

Through baptism, You have been given glory, the crown of glory, the crown of everlasting life. Through faith in Jesus, you have been given strength, the strength of God to keep you faithful to the end. Through the Holy Spirit, you have been made holy in the Lord’s eyes; you are holy, without sin, perfect. Through baptism, you have the power of God, the power over death, the power of life and salvation. Through the eternal reign of Christ, we will share in His majesty; God will lift us up and make us His royal kingdom. And through the promise of God, we will receive all of these things forever and forever. The promise is for eternity—and today that promise came for Aubrey. Some time back, if you have been baptized, that promise came for you. If you haven’t been baptized, but you believe in Jesus Christ, then that promise comes for you.

You may not believe these words. You may not believe that this pole of words could be about you. Yet, it is certain that God ascribes, attributes, assigns, accredits these things to you. It is certain, for there are even hints of these things in our other Scripture readings today.

In Isaiah (43:1-7), God says we are His Creation. He will protect us from all harm and danger. God says, “You are precious and honored in my sight.” He created us for His glory. That’s right: God made you, and that brings glory and honor to God. The Lord is praised, because He made you.

It doesn’t matter where you were born. It doesn’t matter what kind of family you have. It doesn’t matter that people can’t always tell you’re a Christian by your actions. It doesn’t matter, because Jesus gives you these qualities as a gift. If we put your name at the top of the pole, it doesn’t mean we have to take down any of these qualities.

In Romans (6:1-11), we realize we were buried with Christ—which seems fitting if we’re feeling like sinners who deserve to die. That’s what we are. But that’s not where God stops. God doesn’t put you to death and then leave you there. Instead, God raises up the pole and shares all of His qualities, all of His blessings with you. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” “We will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” “Death no longer has mastery over [Christ],” and death no longer has mastery over you.

It doesn’t matter that you had to be cleansed from sin. It doesn’t matter that you still are a sinful. None of those un-glorious, un-strong, unholy, un-powerful, un-majestic, un-forever things about you can change the truth about what Jesus did for you: He shares all of His blessings with you, makes you an equal part of the family, puts your name at the top of the pole.

So you may stand here gawking today, thinking that this pole of words couldn’t possibly be describing you, but it does. Through Christ, you have received all of His blessings. Through baptism, you are a part of God’s family.

To God be the glory. . .because He shares His glorious riches with us through Jesus Christ.