"Praying the Psalms" — John Weborg at Bethlehem Church.

by Phil Johnson

The Bethlehem Covenant Winter Seminar featured John Weborg from North Park Theological Seminary. John is a veteran professor at NPTS, one of the giants who, as the years pass and the culmination of a career comes into view, makes one ask, "How can there be a North Park Seminary without him?"

Dr. Weborg made clear that the special value of the Psalms is that they deal with the whole of life. The Church has edited out the difficult pas-sages—"unconscionable censorship," he said. The pericope will specify, say, verses 1 to 4 and 19 to 35 leaving out the painful, difficult passages that lie between in which the Psalmist complains bitterly to God and chides God for inaction.

Other thinkers, John observed, have noted the deep value of the Psalms. For example, John Calvin spoke of the Psalms as "An anatomy of all parts of the soul," and St. Ambrose called them the "Gymnasium of the soul." In sharing lament, the Psalms have been a balm for many.

John distinguished between "overt" and "covert" life situations which we lament. Overt situations are serious illness, death, downsizing, moral failure, refugee status, divorce, and economic collapse. Covert are of the order of "Grieving for what has never been" which is the title of a book by Barbara Moreley. On the covert list are the griefs that have come from loss of fulfillment, a never born child, orphans never knowing their parents, second generation refugees never knowing their "homeland," and so forth.

The Psalms give us words for our grief, guilt, lament, and anger, and they lead us in confession and praise. They give voice to a thankful heart.

This is the more familiar part. We hear Psalms, or parts of Psalms, every Sunday. There have been many moments through a lifetime, in formal worship and at other times, when words of a Psalm have lifted my soul and given tongue to rejoicing. But I have not made the Psalms a regular part of my life. When I have encountered vengeful and cursing words, I have turned away. Had the church not censored them through the pericope, I would have. But the work of John Weborg among us has brought the possibility of change in me.

Praise God for the capability of the teacher to enlighten, for the gift of teaching, and, in this particular case, for the Christian teacher, John Weborg.

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

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