Status: In Progress
Location: Bastrop Church of Christ
Text Used: NRSV and NRSVue
There's A Playlist for That!
If “you are what you eat,” can you also be what you listen to?
The idea is out there for more than just food. For example, there is an excellent book by James K. A. Smith called You Are What You Love. There is also a modern proverb that claims “you are the sum of the five people you hang out with the most.” In a world where music is readily available like never before, maybe we can argue that you are what you listen to.
You may have also heard “there’s an app for that!” Well, nowadays we can also say, “there’s a playlist for that!” Everything from “push up playlist” to “knitting party playlist” is available in seconds. [And there are ones a lot weirder than that too…. trust me!]
You might have heard of the Psalms of Ascents. They are a small collection – a playlist – of 15 psalms inside the book of Psalms. It’s Psalms 120-134. These 15 psalms are so named because they each have a heading attached to them: “A Song of Ascents.”
Like anything else in the world, it is debated why these psalms are called songs of ascents. Your Bible might say “A Song of Degrees” (KJV) or “a pilgrimage song” (CEB) or something more interpretive like “A song for those who go up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD” (NIRV).
Early in Christian interpretation this collection of Psalms was viewed as a symbolic ascent of the soul to God. Historically, it is likely that these psalms were in fact used by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for festivals 3 times each year. It is also plausible that these songs were performed by the Levites on the steps in the temple. In fact, the word “ascents” is argued by some scholars to be better translated as “steps.” This is fascinating because there were exactly 15 steps on the particular set of steps where the Levites would have sung the 15 songs of this collection.
The debate continues, but I wonder if maybe we can have our cake and eat it too. Why can’t this collection refer to the historical pilgrimage of Israelites to Jerusalem, the songs the Levites sung to welcome those coming to Jerusalem, and also our own soul’s ascent towards God? After all, this collection is called the Psalms of Ascents (plural).
If “you are what you listen to,” and you want to be on your way to God, then I’ve got the playlist for you – “there’s a playlist for that!” It is called the Psalms of Ascents. Or as I like to call it: “the Pilgrimage Playlist.” Think of it like a road trip playlist made just for you by God.
So grab a pair of earbuds and prepare your heart and soul. We are going on a road trip, a pilgrimage, a journey, a glorious adventure. We are going to God.
Devotional and Deeper Study
Read 2 of the Psalms of ascent each day (except one day you will read 3).
Read whichever psalm the sermon is from everyday for the rest of the following week.
Mix the two other options so that each week you are reading the psalm from Sunday’s sermon everyday while also reading through the psalms in sequence each week.