Psalm 23: The Shepherd

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

February 22, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this Feast of St. Peter we pray with Psalm 23 – the Good Shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    In verdant pastures I am given repose;
Beside restful waters the Lord leads me;
    refreshing my soul.

Psalm 23

The history and devotion intrinsic to this feast can inspire us to pray especially today for our dear Pope Francis who carries Peter’s grace and burden in our time. He carries, in Primacy, the charge reflected in our first reading:

Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.


Pope Francis faces resistances just as Peter did. There are always forces within a community who pull its energy in contradictory directions. When rooted in love and reverent dialogue, that counteraction can generate growth. But when born of selfishness and obstinance, such opposition poisons the whole Body.

Francis needs our prayer. The Church needs our prayer. According to Teresa of Avila, Saint and Doctor of the Church, that prayer should be scriptural:

All the troubles of the Church,
all the evils in the world,
flow from this source:
that human beings do not
by clear and sound knowledge
and serious consideration
penetrate into the truths
of Sacred Scripture.

St. Teresa of Avila

Today, Psalm 23 inspires our prayer for our Pope:

Even in the dark valley
    may you fear no evil; for you are at God’s side
Whose rod and staff
    give you courage.
May God spread graces before you
    in the sight of your troubles;
and anoint your head with oil;
    your cup overflowing.
May goodness and kindness follow you
    all the days of your life;
May you dwell in the LORD’s sanctuary
    for all your days.


Poetry: When I was a boy … (Da ich ein Knabe war …) – Friedrich Hölderlin

Pope Francis’s favorite poet is said to be the German writer Friedrich Hölderlin. Perhaps Francis, composer of the lyrical Laudato Sí and Fratelli Tutti, loves this rhapsodic poem.

When I was a boy
Often a god would save me
From the shouts and blows of men;
I played safely and well
With the flowers of the fields
And the winds of heaven
Played with me.

As you make happy
The hearts of plants
When they extend to you
Their delicate tendrils,
So you make my heart happy,
Father Sun, and like Endymion
I was your favorite,
Holy Moon!

All true and neighborly gods!
If only you knew
How much I loved you then!
True, at that time, I didn’t
Know your names, and you
Never bothered to name me, like men
Who only pretend to know one another.

Yet I know you better
Than I’ve ever known anyone,
I understood the silence of the upper air,
But I’ve never understood the words of men.
I was raised by the sounds
Of the rustling grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
I grew up in the arms of the gods.

Music: Psalm 23 with Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze

Psalm 25: Grace through Prisms

First Sunday of Lent

February 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25, a prayer full of humility, thanksgiving, and hope.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
    teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my savior.

Psalm 25: 4-5

Genesis 9:12

On this First Sunday of Lent, the psalm is set between the wonderful Noah story, its interpretation by Peter, and the proclamation of Christ’s redemptive mission.

Like Noah, humankind has come through the storm of an ages-long messianic longing. Jesus is the Rainbow rising out of that darkness. His Light passes into us through the prismed waters of our Baptism. Indeed, as our Psalm declares:

Good and upright is the LORD,
    showing sinners the way.
God guides the humble to justice,
    and teaches the humble the godly way.

Psalm 25: 8-9

When our psalmist first begins to pray, the light within seems shadowed and the vibrancy of his soul perhaps fractured. At times, we have felt the same way. 

But the psalmist’s sincere and humble prayer catches God’s Light, allowing the passage from shadows to to the full rainbow of Mercy. May it be so for all of us as well as we journey with Jesus through Lent.

Poetry: on a separate post today due to its length — but so worth the time to read and savor.


Music: Rainbow by Robert Plant – Let God sing this song to you, perhaps the way God sang in Noah’s heart when he was delivered from the flood.

I found a lucky charm
I dressed it up with love
I crossed the Seven Seas to you
Will it be enough?

And I will be a rainbow
Oh, now your storm is gone
And I will bring the song for you
And I will carry on
Ooh Ooh Ooh
Ooh Ooh Ooh

I'm reachin' for the stars
In the sky above
Oh, I will bring their beauty home
The colors of my love

And I will be a rainbow
Now your storm is gone
And I will bring my song to you
And I will carry on
(Hummed interlude)

Love is enough
Though the world be a wind
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining

My hands shall not tremble, my feet shall not falter
The voyage shall not weary, the fish shall not alter
Hmm, It's rainbow, oh it's rainbow
Oh, can't you see the eyes are the eyes of a lover

Pocket full of hearts
A world that's filled with love
A love that carries all before
The passion and the flood

I lie beneath the rainbow
Now your tears have gone
And I will sing my song for you
And I will carry on
(Repeated interlude)

Psalm 50: Love Bears Sacrifice

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

February 15, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50, set as a scene from a court proceeding. That seems rather appropriate after watching the impeachment proceedings, doesn’t it!

Psalm 50 is written to evoke the imagery of trial in which God calls all Creation as witnesses.

God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
    from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Psalm 50: 1

God expresses displeasure to the people about two specific things.

  1. The substance of their sacrifices:

Offer praise as your sacrifice to God;
fulfill your vows to the Most High.
Then call on me on the day of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.

Psalm 50: 15-16

2. Their blatant hypocrisy:

But to the wicked God says:
“Why do you recite my commandments
and profess my covenant with your mouth?
You hate discipline;
you cast my words behind you!

Psalm 50: 17-18

in judgement, God requires a conversion in the people:

Now understand this, you who forget God,
lest I start ripping apart and there be no rescuer.

Psalm 50:23

The psalm’s imagery was no doubt effective for its first listeners because they, like us, had witnessed many a court proceeding that was all about “law” but very little about justice. They recognized hypocrisy clothed in pretense, even in themselves.

God, on the other hand speaks clearly about truth and justice:

Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me;
I will let him whose way is steadfast
look upon the salvation of God.

Psalm 50: 24

Praise is the prayer of a humble, aware, truthful, and obedient spirit. Our Gospel verse instructs us that we learn how to offer a sacrifice of praise by living in the pattern of Jesus:

I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Poetry: Praise Song for the Day by ELIZABETH ALEXANDER

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
hey would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Music: Total Praise – Richard Smallwood

I just love this hymn and this choir!

Lord, I will lift my eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You
Your peace You give me in time of the storm
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

Psalm 128: Fear?

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

February 11, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which some describe as a blueprint for a happy home.

Happy are they all who fear the Lord, 
and who follow in the ways of God!
You shall eat the fruit of your labor;
happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine 
within your house, 
your children like olive shoots 
round about your table.

Psalm 128, Canadian Inclusive Psalter

As lovely as it is, this interpretation may be overly simple. 


Psalm 128, written in the post-exilic period, is the people’s song of gratitude for the chance to return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity.

For Israel, the captivity was the result of their faithlessness to their covenant with God. The core sentiment of the psalm is awareness, repentance, and conviction to live life more intentionally – to live in fear of the Lord and thus preserve oneself from future calamity:

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
    who walk in the Lord’s ways!


For us, that word “fear” is a tough one. It seems to contradict our desired relationship with the God who is Love, the God we have met in the person of Jesus Christ. How do we reconcile the contradiction?

Proverbs tells us this:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

So this “fear” is significantly different from the emotion we might feel when, for example, we hear an unfamiliar noise in our darkened house.

Thus the ‘fear of the Lord’ is a relational term signifying the Israelites’ response to God’s grace displayed in salvation (especially the Exodus). As Walter Brueggemann has aptly written, it means: to take God with utmost seriousness as the premise and perspective from which life is to be discerned and lived. That ‘utmost seriousness’ requires attentiveness to some things rather than others, to spend one’s energies in response to this God who has initiated our life.

Mark J. Boda, Professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College

This, in fact, is the rich sentiment underlying Psalm 128, and that will yield the security of an intimate relationship with God

May the LORD bless you from Zion;
may you see Jerusalem’s prosperity
all the days of your life,
and live to see your children’s children.
Peace upon Israel!

Psalm 128: 4-5
…as our life unfolds in God’s grace.

The psalmist’s “fear” might be more akin to awe, reverence, glad obedience to our God who loves us and wills our good. It is a virtue rooted in our search for a holy awe and wisdom as our life unfolds in God’s Grace:

Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, says we live in a technological society that has grossly confused knowledge and wisdom. He says wisdom is the mystery, held by God, about how and why life works…how creation holds together…and how human reason has its limits. Wisdom is God’s secret and even our bold Enlightenment expectations barely lay a finger on that secret. Wisdom involves recognizing limits before the mystery of God. Knowledge has to do with control, says Brueggemann. Wisdom has to do with awe.

William M. Klein, Pastor, Lexington Presbyterian Church

Poem: I Am Bending My Knee
Originally from the Carmina Gadelica I, 3. Taken from Esther de Waal, editor, The Celtic Vision (Liguori, MO: Liguori/Triumph, 1988, 2001), p. 7.

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.

Music: The Fear of the Lord – First Baptist Dallas (Wow! How about this music ministry!)

Psalm 147: Brokenhearted?

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 7, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 which invites us to:

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
    sing praise to our God, Who is gracious;
    Whom it is fitting to praise.

It is a psalm for the left-brained who, like Job in our first reading, might need some explanation about just why we should praise when life seems so unpraiseworthy at times!

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
    Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
    a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
    and troubled nights have been allotted to me.

Job 7: 1-4

Job, like many of us when we suffer, feels crushed under life’s burdens. However, an extended reading of the Book of Job reveals that humility and repentance allow Job to “see God”, and to rediscover the richness and flavor of his life.

Calling us to the same kind of awareness, Psalm 147 presents a series of reasons for praising God, including God’s continual attention to the city of Jerusalem, to brokenhearted and injured individuals, to the cosmos, and to nature.

For me, the most moving of these reasons comes in verse 3:

The Lord heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
The Lord tells the number of the stars;
    calling each by name.


This is a beautiful picture of our infinitely compassionate God who is able to recognize our broken-heartedness. 

This loving God, who knows the stars by name, knows us as well. We, like Job, begin to heal within the divine lullaby God patiently sings over our broken hearts.

Jesus is that Healing Song, the Word hummed over the world by the merciful Creator. In today’s Gospel, we see that Melody poured out over the suffering:

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Mark 1: 32-34

As we pray today,

let us hear God’s song of mercy
being sung over all Creation.
Let us rest our own brokenness
there in its compassionate chords.
Let us bring the world’s pain to our prayer.

Poetry: A Cure Of Souls by Denise Levertov

The pastor
of grief and dreams
guides his flock towards
the next field
with all his care.
He has heard
the bell tolling
but the sheep
are hungry and need
the grass, today and
every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long
shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving
along the valley.

Music: God Heals My Broken Heart – Patty Felker

If Job were singing his sadness today, it might sound like this song.

Psalm 23: Ever Comforting

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Saturday, February 6, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, that lovingly familiar song which, over the ages, has comforted so many.

Beside Still Waters by Greg Olsen

We may wish to simply pray this psalm gently and slowly, remembering the many times it has comforted us.

(Below is the inclusive language translation from the Inclusive Language Liturgical Psalter of the Canadian Anglican Synod. Other inclusion collections include Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Psalter for the Christian People, The Saint Helena Psalter and the Canadian publication, Songs for the Holy One.)

Psalm 23 (Dominus regit me)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
You make me lie down in green pastures 
and lead me beside still waters.
You revive my soul 
and guide me along right pathways 
for your name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil, 
and my cup is running over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Music: Shepherd Me, O God – Marty Haugen

Psalm 95: Listening Softly

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 31, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, once again a call to a holy tenderheartedness – that mix of love, discernment, and generosity that magnetizes us into dynamic relationship with God.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
    “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
    as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
    they tested me though they had seen my works.”

Psalm 95: 7-9

Our other Sunday readings, which Psalm 95 anchors, clarify the reason we seek this tenderheartedness. It is so that we might not only hear, but really listen and respond to the Truth of God in our lives.

Those who will not listen to my words
which a prophet speaks in my name,
I myself will make them answer for it.

Deuteronomy 18:18

In our first reading from Deuteronomy, the people were confused. They were passing into a new land with lots of rivaling religions and spiritualities. Moses was nearing the end of his life and leadership over them. They wanted to know who to listen to and how to behave in order to stay in God’s favor.

God promises that God’s voice will come through a prophet like Moses:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.

Deuteronomy 18: 19

In our Gospel, we see Jesus – the fulfillment of the Deuteronomic Promise. The people witnessing his power are amazed. They struggle with whether they can believe in him when he seems just one of them, a Nazarene, Joseph’s son.

But some could believe – readily. Some, like the disciples, discerned quickly the Truth Jesus was. They heard, listened, believed and obeyed the Word.

Our psalm suggests that such readiness, such tenderheartedness comes from the consistent practice of relationship with God through praise, witness, thanksgiving, prayer, worship, humility, and obedience.


To me, it boils down to this:

  • let your life unfold in God’s Presence
  • be silent under God’s loving gaze
  • thank God for all you have been given
  • realize you are nothing without God
  • listen to your life as God speaks it to you
  • act on what you hear
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
    let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving;
    let us joyfully sing psalms to the Lord.
R. If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
    let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For the Lord is our God,
    and we are the people God shepherds, the flock God guides.

Poetry: Rumi

I keep telling my heart,
“Go easy now.
I am submerged in golden treasure.”
It replies,
“Why should I be afraid of love?”

Music: Soften My Heart – by Music Meets Heaven

Psalm 110:Through Paul’s Lens

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 110, but through the lens of our first reading from Hebrews.

We have prayed with this psalm a few times recently, exploring its links to priesthood, ministry, and good old Melchizedek. When I saw it again this morning, I was at little exhausted by it. Then I read Hebrews and got a new perspective on Psalm 110.

For by one offering Christ has made perfect forever 
those who are being consecrated.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:
    This is the covenant I will establish with them
        after those days, says the Lord:
    “I will put my laws in their hearts,
        and I will write them upon their minds,”

Hebrews 10:14-16

This passage from Hebrews is a testament to Jesus Christ, the ultimate High Priest, the Complete Melchizedek. That which Christ sanctifies or consecrates is us – his Body, the Church.

This consecration places in our hearts the covenant once spoken of by Jeremiah:

See, days are coming says the LORD—
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.
They broke my covenant, though I was their master.
But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days.
I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:31-33

Praying with Psalm 110 in this light, I give thanks for the Covenant expressed in my own life:

  • for my Baptism into Christ,
  • for the grace to witness to Christ’s law of love
  • for my inclusion into Christ’s ongoing ministry through the Holy Spirit

Poetry: The Covenant Prayer of John Wesley (1703–1791)

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Music: A New and Living Way – Michael Card

Year after year there the priest would stand
 An offering of blood held out in in his hand
 Before the curtain there he would stand in fright
 It hung there to hold in the holy ~ to keep in the light
 
A new and living way
 Through the curtain that was torn
 The climax of the cross
 The moment our hope was born
 By a new and living way
 
 And when time was full another Priest came to save
 He would offer forgiveness for He was the Offering He gave
 From the sacrifice ~ from that dark disgrace
 Came the power to make anywhere a Most Holy Place
 
 A new and living way
 Through the curtain that was torn
 The climax of the cross

Psalm 25: Let Your Word Teach Me

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Sunday of the Word of God

January 24, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25, a simple, heartfelt plea to learn God’s ways and to be blessed by that learning.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
    teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my savior.

Psalm 25: 4-5

The psalmist’s prayer is so fitting
for this special Sunday
which is dedicated as the
“Sunday of the Word of God”.

Pope Francis called for this commemoration with his Apostolic Letter “Aperuit illis”. The Latin words come from Luke 24:45, referring to Jesus’s post-Resurrection appearance to his confused disciples.

Then he opened their minds
to understand the scriptures.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

Luke 24: 36-45

The Pope’s letter institutes the annual observance
of the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
as “Sunday of the Word of God”,
devoted to the celebration, study and
dissemination of the Word of God.

Pope Francis wrote this:

A profound bond links sacred Scripture and the faith of believers. Since faith comes from hearing, and what is heard is based on the word of Christ (cf. Rom 10:17), believers are bound to listen attentively to the word of the Lord, both in the celebration of the liturgy and in their personal prayer and reflection.

Aperuit Illis, 7

If you are reading this blog, you already seek an ever deeper, more loving relationship with God through sacred scripture. But with our Infinite God, there is always more.

Let us use today’s Psalm 25 to reflect on and reaffirm that core relationship in our lives. Let’s re-examine the dedicated time we give to scriptural prayer and “lectio divina” to make it more intentional, quiet, and consistent.


For a good explanation of lectio divina, see the Transforming Center’s website:


In the spirit of Psalm 25, we pray to always be held in God’s merciful attention, and to hold God in ours through prayer and desire.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
    and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
    because of your goodness, O LORD.

Psalm 25: 6-7

These are two books that I love, and have mentioned before, to help deepen our scriptural prayer:

Too Deep for Words – Thelma Hall

The Flowing Grace of Now – Macrina Wiederkehr – (Kindle edition on sale now for just $2.99)


Poetry: The Opening of Eyes – David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds 
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Music: Word of God Speak – MercyMe 

Psalm 47: Imagining God

Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 47 which describes God as a King ascending to the throne amid shouts of joy.

God mounts the throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

Psalm 47: 6-7

This description reminds me of a pageant like the recent inauguration, where fanfare horns announce the President’s arrival. For the psalmist, the horn might have been a shofar.

It’s a beautiful and triumphant way to imagine what God might be like. But that’s all it is – an image, a product of human imagination. Like the psalmist, we all engage in that creative effort – we picture God. We draw God out of the media stored in our own hearts and spirits.


The freedom we have to imagine God can be both a blessing and a curse. As a blessing, it has allowed us to create tender, triumphant, and splendid constructs of an otherwise unimaginable Love. As a curse, it has given us the power to distort God’s image for our own selfish ends.


It is an awesome power. Even the great Saint Augustine struggled with it:

Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

What art Thou then, my God? 
Most highest, most good, 
most potent, most omnipotent; 
most merciful and most just; 
most hidden and most present; 
most beautiful and most strong, 
standing firm and elusive, 
unchangeable and all-changing; 
never new, never old; 
ever working, ever at rest; 
gathering in and [yet] lacking nothing; 
supporting, filling, and sheltering;
creating, nourishing, and maturing; 
seeking and [yet] having all things. 
And what have I now said,

my God, my life, my holy joy? 
or what says anyone who speaks of Thee? 
And woe to the one who keeps silent about you, 
since many babble on and say nothing.


Praying with Psalm 47, I consider my own “photo album” of the Holy One. I talk with God about those pictures. I ask to know and love God more clearly, so that, made in God’s image, I may more honestly reflect it.

God has given us the ultimate self-portrait in the Person of Jesus who is:

… the image of the unseen God,
the firstborn over all creation.

Colossians 1: 15

Poetry: from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 

Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2: 6-11

Music: Philippians Hymn – John Michael Talbot