It might be easy to forget what a gift the Psalter is; the fact that we still have some pre-exilic songs of worship of the Jewish people is amazing. One of the psalms set for this evening, Psalm 81 is a window into the ways in which the Israelite people worshipped God. It starts with a call to festival celebration, then moves to a history lesson (always with the history lessons), and then the psalm relays a word from God to God’s people. Psalm 81 is a great example of the ebb and flow of the relationship of God and God’s people; never is this relationships static, easy, and consistent. Much like our human relationships, it is constantly in movement.
The festival celebration that this song marked could have been an Autumn celebration or could have been the Passover, or even the Day of Atonement; either way, it is a song that was used to celebrate God’s relationship with God’s people. God reminds God’s people in this psalm that God has continually been faithful to them; after this history lesson and reminder, the psalm ends with God’s faithfulness and God’s care for God’s people. God stands alone at the end of the psalm. When the celebration fades away, the truth that God has remained present to God’s people is left standing alone.
Our relationship with God functions much in the same way these days. While we might celebrate God’s goodness with horns and trumpets, it does nothing to change the fact that our relationship with God often moves and changes, but God is always there. God is always standing, sometimes alone, present in our faithfulness or in our faithlessness. God is as present in our pain, fear, and frustration as God is in our joy, celebrations, and comfort.