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I think you have understood the title of this psalm now, holy brethen. If we were to attempt to explain the psalm itself now, there would be a risk that what you have heard might slip your memories. But tomorrow is Sunday, when we owe you a sermon, so let us put the rest off till then, so that you may be ready to listen to the text of the psalm with fresh enjoyment. We shall have dealt with the title, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
–The real Augustine
This is from the first of two sermons Augustine delivered on Psalm 34. I’m quoting from the hardcover version of this book, where Psalm 34 is listed as Psalm 33. The backstory on that is that Augustine followed the Septuagint numbering of the Psalms, which is just a bit different from modern Bibles that follow the Masoretic Text numbering. (In particular, the Septuagint merges Psalms 9 and 10, so a bunch of Psalms after that are numbered just one digit differently–Psalm 11 is counted as Psalm 10, Psalm 12 is counted as Psalm 11, etc.)
But the backstory on this post is given right there in the quote: Augustine addressed these words directly to a congregation that showed up to listen to sermons two days in a row.
That’s Saturday and Sunday, guys.
Not that Augustine never preached to an audience of at least a couple of hundred (see here, page 116). But to how many people exactly were these words directly applicable, do you think?
How many people you reckon showed up for sermons two days in a row that particular week?
Probably not that many.
But Augustine said it for ’em anyway. And he preached the sermon that these words were wrapping up. And he preached another the next day.
And he knew someone was there taking notes, and he did some work himself managing the records of these sermons–which is why the Enarrationes in Psalmos both exists and is so long—6 thick volumes long in the New City Press translations. The Enarrationes are the records of those sermons, plus some sermons that may not have been delivered, plus some commentaries that were never even sermons.
And nerds are writing books about these books even now. (I’m even doing one myself.)
Which brings me back to the title of this post, and to an inspiring lesson of sorts:
We should keep the future in mind in what we say and write. No need to throw away the immediate present–but sometimes a still greater good may come of speaking and writing for others, later.
The world is a mess right about now, eh? Well, try not to worry too much, but definitely do your duty. (Failing to fix the world is easy, but failing to do your duty is pretty difficult as long as you just do it.)
Speak no lies, speak what truths you can, address the problems of today, and keep in mind the future. Even if the whole world ignores the truth today, the future may yet listen.Published in