Psalm 34: Together

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

February 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34, thought to be a young David’s thanksgiving prayer after God saved him from one of his many dangerous escapades.

In telling his deliverance story, David invites his friends to celebrate with him and to learn the faith-lesson he has learned:

Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears. 


I picture myself sitting in David’s audience, absorbing the words of his prayer. This line strikes me:

The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.

Ah, the Lord has eyes for me….for ME! It conjures up sounds of The Flamingos, doesn’t it? (Sorry for the transcriber’s misspelling 😀)

Most of us want to think that we are individually special to God. This desire is at the core of the Protestant Evangelical model, “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. But for some, this model has become confused with a prosperity gospel that is quite misleading.

The only prosperity we should seek from God is the gift of grace because:

Yahweh’s peculiar inclinations are with the broken-hearted and the ones with crushed spirit. That is, Yahweh’s solidarity is not with the ones who go from success to success, but the ones denied success.

Walter Brueggemann The Message of the Psalms A Theological Commentary Ausberg Publishing House 1984

Still, such a personal relationship is not alien to a full and complete faith:

Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 2009

(Look for an extra prayer about “The Eye of God” in another post today.)


However, our psalm alerts us that this deeply personal dimension is only part of relationship with God.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
   and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

To be seen and heard by God, one must be part of the just community. To be close to God, one must feel the brokenheartedness of the poor. We come to the psalmist’s exuberant praise only by walking with suffering, either in our own lives, or beside others who bear distress.

From all their distress
God rescues the just.

Psalm 34 teaches us that our personal relationship with God is interdependent with our relationship with the whole community. David calls his community to share in his praise-song because they- together -recognize God’s mercy and share it in concern for one another.

The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.


Our Gospel today confirms that a personal love for God thrives only within a communal love. The prayer Jesus shares is not “My Father”. It is “Our Father”. We come to the depths of God’s merciful heart with our sisters and brothers.


Poetry: An Inclusive Lord’s Prayer – Author unknown

Loving God, 
in whom is heaven, 
may Your name be honored everywhere.
May Your Mercy reign.
May the desire of Your heart for the world 
be done, 
in us, by us and through us.
Give us each and all
the bread we need for the day.
Forgive us.
Free us to forgive others.
Keep us from all anxiety, fear, and selfishness.
For You reign in the power that comes from love 
which is Your glory
forever and ever.
Amen.

Music: Our Father – Joe Wise

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 104: Beautiful Creator

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, February 8, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 104, a lyrical hymn of praise for the wonders of Creation. As I write this morning, an ermine snow coats the evergreens in soft white feathers. There is a quiet whisper in the trees, like God might make while sleeping

To prepare for prayer, I turn to my favorite theologian who writes extensively about Psalm 104 in his book, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms.

I have outlined my reading here for those who might like to approach Psalm 104 from Brueggemann’s perspective. If you benefit from his work, I highly recommend his book:

From Walter Brueggemann:

Psalm 104 divides roughly into two parts. The first part (vv. 1–24) provides an inventory of the components of creation, framed by a doxological formula. I suggest that inventory framed by doxology (praise prayer) is a good way to begin our thinking about creation.


In the second half of the poem, verses 25–35, we are offered four themes that may serve as reference points as we trace the paradigmatic power and significance of creation:

  1. Creation and Chaos
    These verses attest to the reliable, generative ordering of creation that makes use of all available creaturely possibilities.

There is the sea, great and wide!
It teems with countless beings,
living things both large and small.
There ships ply their course
and Leviathan,* whom you formed to play with.

Psalm 104: 25-26
  1. Creation and Provision

The creator “gives, gives, opens”; the creatures “gather, receive, eat,” and “are filled.” This transaction between the giver and the recipients is endless, reliable, and necessary. The creatures are always on the receiving end of the generous giving of the creator.

These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
when you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are filled with good things.

Psalm 104: 27-28
  1. Creation and Ruach

“Rauch” is a Hebrew word which images God as a breath, a wind, or a life force that sustains all living things, human beings included. in Psalm 104, “rauch” describes God’s generous, life-initiating, life-sustaining gift of vitality without which no creature can live:

When you hide your face, they panic.
Take away their breath, they perish
and return to the dust.
Send forth your spirit, they are created
and you renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 104: 29-30
  1. Creation and Righteous Judgement 

Righteousness is glad acceptance of the good ordering of reality given and guaranteed by the creator, an ordering that culminates in confident Sabbath from all our destructive drives for self-worth.

May sinners vanish from the earth,
and the wicked be no more.
Bless the LORD, my soul! Hallelujah!

Psalm 104: 35

My humble prayer, wrought in light of Brueggemann’s elegant theology is this:

I praise and thank You, God, for the wonder of Creation.
I am in awe of your Power to order all things toward Beauty.
From that balance of beauty and power,
you offer me the joys and challenges of life.
You sustain and nourish me, even in the overwhelming times.
I want to respond fully and gratefully
to your creative power in my life and in our world.
Please give me clarity and courage
to live within your life-giving creative Grace.

Amen


Poetry: The Creation by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)


And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That’s good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That’s good!

Then God himself stepped down—

And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That’s good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen. Amen.

Music: Creation Song – Fernando Ortega

Psalm 96: There Are No Others

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

January 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a call to witness God’s sovereignty over and faithfulness to the whole world.

The tone of Psalm 96 is slightly different from some other psalms which call for national rejoicing. It does not suggest that God loves Israel better than other nations, therefore taking their side in history. Psalm 96 simply encourages gratitude for and witness to God’s saving power:

Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
    among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Psalm 96: 1-3

Like Israel, we walk a fine line in discerning how God loves us, both individually and as a member of the many “tribes” with which we align ourselves. Does God love Americans more? Or white people? Or Black people? Or Italians? Or the Irish? Or straight people? Or Christians? Or the wealthy? Or Phillies fans? (Well, yeah, probably Phillies fans 🙂 )


Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950) was an Indian Hindu sage. He is regarded by many as an outstanding enlightened being. He was a charismatic person, and attracted many devotees,
some of whom saw him as an avatar and the embodiment of Shiva.

He was once asked,
“How should we treat others?”
He replied,
“There are no others.”


It seems that we have some innate need to compare ourselves favorably against “others”. That need, unchecked and fed by fear, is at the root of any oppressive nationalism, such as the white Christian nationalism we saw displayed in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Jason Meyer, Pastor for Preaching and Vision in Minneapolis, writes this:
” We must always reject any attempt to fuse together one’s national/political identity with one’s Christian identity in a way that equates or conflates allegiance to country with allegiance to God.”


In an excellent article from Sojourners, Walter Brueggemann elucidates the prophet’s role in contradicting the forces that enshrine the totalism which leads to idolatries like distorted nationalism.
(totalism: the practice of a dictatorial one-party state that regulates every form of life such as that which existed under King Solomon in ancient Israel)


Psalm 96 gives us another view of what really made Israel “chosen” – their example to all nations to praise our shared Creator as the Source of all stability and equity.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
    give to the LORD glory and praise;
    give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
Who made the world firm, not to be moved;
    who governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 96: 7-8

Poetry: For Whom the Bell Tolls – John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Music: Imagine – John Lennon

Psalm 27: How to Wait!

Friday of the First Week of Advent

December 4, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27 with its glorious opening salvo:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Of whom should I be afraid?


 Psalm 27 reminds us that, amidst all the fluster of life, there is only one thing that matters:

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.

Psalm 27:4

The hard part, as the psalmist tells us, is to wait – not just to wait for heaven at the end of it all – but to wait to discover God in each moment. 

I find waiting to be pretty challenging, especially when I’m waiting for something over which I have no control.

Sometimes God seems pretty buried in our lives and in the clamor of the world. It’s tough to wait with hope when we just can’t see the Beloved.


But our psalm charges us to practice hopeful waiting for the grace that comes to us in every moment.

May we wait with courage, hope, and confidence for the gift God eternally gives us.


Poem: from Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth by Walter Brueggemann 

In our secret yearnings
we wait for your coming,
and in our grinding despair
we doubt that you will.

And in this privileged place
we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than do we
and by those who despair more deeply than do we.

Look upon your church and its pastors
in this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and this season of yearning
which becomes so easily quarrelsome.

Give us the grace and the impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edge of our finger tips.

We do not want our several worlds to end.
Come in your power
and come in your weakness
in any case and make all things new.
Amen.

Music: Waiting – by Isisip

Psalm 19: Declare God’s Glory

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

September 21, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, one of the unique “Torah Psalms” (1, 19, 119) in which Israel celebrates the divine structure of life in all Creation, including ourselves.

James Luther Mays, in his article The Place of the Torah-Psalms in the Psalter, suggests that these psalms serve as a guide to how all the other psalms are to be read, interpreted and prayed.


Walter Brueggemann describes life without God as “normless” – without the structure of grace and relationship with God that holds all Creation in abundant Life. He refers to the Torah as a “norming” dynamism, and writes:

And when Israel … used the term “Torah” (never meaning simply or simplistically “law”), it refers to the entire legacy of norming that is elastic, dynamic, fluid, and summoning. The outcome of that legacy in the Psalter is the great Torah Psalms in which Israel celebrates, with joy, that the creator God has not left the world as a normless blob but has instilled in the very structure of creation the transformative capacity for enacted fidelity. That is why Psalm 19 juxtaposes the glory of creation that attests the creator (vv. 1–6) with the commandments that are the source of life.


Our verses today for the Feast of St. Matthew include this phrase…

Their message goes out through all the earth.

… perhaps equating the universal ministry of the Apostles to the transformative power and witness of the heavens to God’s immutable glory.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.


The teaching of the Apostles is codified for Catholics in the Apostles Creed. We might want to pray it slowly today, attentive to those “norming ” beliefs – our sort of fundamental “Torah” – which hold our lives in graceful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, 
Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; 
the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, 
and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; 
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
the holy Catholic Church, 
the communion of saints, 
the forgiveness of sins, 
the resurrection of the body 
and life everlasting.
Amen.

Poetry: XIX Caeli Ennarant by Malcolm Guite

In that still place where earth and heaven meet
Under mysterious starlight, raise your head
And gaze up at their glory:  ‘the complete

Consort dancing’ as a poet said
Of his own words. But these are all God’s words;
A shining poem, waiting to be read

Afresh in every heart. Now look towards
The brightening east, and see the splendid sun
Rise and rejoice, the icon of his lord’s

True light. Be joyful with him, watch him run
His course, receive the gift and treasure of his light
Pouring like honeyed gold till day is done

As sweet and strong as all God’s laws, as right
As all his judgements and as clean and pure,
All given for your growth, and your delight!


Music: Wonderland – David Nevis

Psalm 112: Key to Blessedness

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

August 10, 2020


“Beatus Vir” from a 9th Century Psalter

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 112, a poetic description of what “holiness-in-action” looks like. The psalm’s tone is reminiscent of the beloved passage from Proverbs 31,  “Who shall find a valiant woman…” Only this passage says, “Blessed is the man… Beatus vir”.

Both these passages give us a glimpse into the righteousness expected of one who is in covenant with God. That person reflects the Divine Righteousness of God in both word and deed.

The “righteousness of God” comes down to concrete actions
that intend generous rehabilitation of those without resources.
The Psalms sing of these concrete acts.

Walter Brueggemann

A slow reading of the psalm is a good prayer today, asking God to help us open our hearts and choices to this graceful righteousness.  The heavily masculine translation can be a little off-putting for the women among us though. So you might like to use this translation as I did.


Happy are those who revere God 
    and delight in doing his will. 
Their children will be greatly honored 
    and their grandchildren greatly blessed. 
Abundance will fill their houses
     as gratitude fills their hearts. 
They conduct their affairs with justice; 
    their integrity cannot be shaken. 
They give of themselves to the poor 
    and share their wealth with the needy. 
They are patient, cheerful, compassionate, 
    generous, impeccably fair. 
They harbor no regrets for the past 
    and no worries about the future. 
Their minds are centered in God,
    and they trust him with all their hearts.
They honor themselves, and are honored; 
    they walk with their heads held high. 
Their rising is like the sunrise, 
    and their light fills heaven and earth. 
Their righteousness shines on all people; 
    their good works endure forever.
from A Book of Psalms: Selections Adapted from the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell

Poetry: from Rumi

Your acts of kindness
are iridescent wings
of divine love
which linger and continue
to uplift others
long after your sharing.


Music:  Beatus Vir – Antonio Vivaldi

Beatus vir qui timet Dominum,
In mandatis ejus volet nimis.
Blessed the man who fears the Lord,
in his commandments he delights greatly.

Psalm 50 Redux: Sacrifice of Praise

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 13, 2020

I have no past reflection on today’s readings since in 2016 they came on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and in 2018 on the Feast of St. Benedict – both of whom I chose to highlight on those days. So here is a reflection from the Creighton University archives:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 50. Today’s passage is what I call the “empty words” section where God leaves no doubt about what does and does not please him.

Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?


We all know people who talk a good game about religion but they’re mean, selfish, and miserable to be around (present company excluded of course 🙄) And we all know people who actually distort religion to promote themselves while debasing and marginalizing others.

In Psalm 50, God says, “Cut it out!”. God doesn’t want burnt offerings or empty words. God wants “a sacrifice of praise”. So what exactly might that mean?


Walter Brueggemann, in talking about the similar Psalm 51, describes a sacrifice of praise like this:

It must be an intimate, yielding act of trustful submission of “spirit and heart,” not “sacrifice and burnt offerings”. The speaker (psalmist), now situated in glad praise, can imagine an intimacy and communion in which contact between God and self is available and in which the distinction between the two parties is clear and acknowledged—God in splendor, the self in “brokenness”.


When we pray from a humble understanding such as Bruggemann describes, our souls open to God’s love for us and for all Creation. We move from being the center of an insecure, self-absorbed universe to seeing ourselves in inextricable communion with all Life whose Center and Source is Love itself.

The one that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to the one who goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.


Poetry: one of mine today.

Praise
is the place
where I am lost
in You,
the exchange 
that
has only 
You speaking
without sound, with nothing
but my awed
silence.

Music: Alvin Slaughter – Sacrifice of Praise

Lord I lift a song of worship
For Your glory and Your grace
Let my heart reveal all my words fail to say
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
(Repeat)
On the mountains, in the valley
As I wait in my secret place
I will trust,trust in the name of the Lord
Now receive this sacrifice of praise
Now receive this sacrifice of praise
You're my shield You're my shelter
From the storm and from the rain
Cover me beneath the shadow of Your wings
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah to Your name
For all You've done
You are and evermore will be
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Of praise
Of praise----

Psalm 103: Bless Your Sacred Heart!

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 19, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this tender feast of the Sacred Heart, we pray with Psalm 103, a hymn of exultant and confident praise.

Walter Brueggemann calls Psalm 103 the best known and best loved of the hymns of praise. He says these hymns have a five-fold purpose, which I paraphrase here:

First, praise imagines something new. It doesn’t describe what is. We are healed to become new selves in God:

God pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.


Second, hymns of praise are acts of devotion with political and controversial overtones. Human boundaries will not impede God’s Mercy.

Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.


Third, the Psalms refer to Israel’s whole salvation history in which God is the key character and lively agent. Our prayer is not about just this moment in our lives – it is built on a long faith-story.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.


Fourth … in singing praise, all claims for the self are given up as the self is ceded over to God. In other words, we fall in love with God.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
all my being, bless his holy name.


Fifth, the hymns of praise with their unreserved and exuberant self-abandonment into the infinity God, contrast starkly with modern “praise songs” which often revert to a narcissistic smallness. . True praise is a large prayer that includes all Creation

The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.


In Psalm 103, the psalmist begins by counting her own blessings. She then moves out to praise God for the blessings given to all Creation. This unfolding in prayer reminds us to enlarge our own awareness of the needs and blessings of others as we pray.

Praying this psalm, let us become amazed and delighted that God loves us completely, irrationally, perfectly and eternally. Wow!

God is so good that it just makes you want to dance. Thus, our energetic music this morning from Godspell

Music: O Bless the Lord, My Soul (based on Psalm 103)
(Lyrics below)

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His praise to thee proclaim!
And all that is within me join,
To bless His holy name!
Oh yeah!

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His mercies bear in mind!
Forget not all His benefits,
The Lord, to thee, is kind.
He will not always chide
He will with patience wait
His wrath is ever slow to rise

Oh bless the Lord
And ready to abate
And ready to abate
Oh yeah!

Oh bless the lord
Bless the lord my soul
Oh bless the lord my soul!
He pardons all thy sins
Prolongs thy feeble breath
He healeth thine infirmities
And ransoms thee from death
He clothes thee with his love
Upholds thee with his truth
And like an eagle he renews
The vigor of thy youth

Then bless His holy name
Whose grace hath made thee whole
Whose love and kindness crowns
Thy days


Poetry: Praise the Rain by Joy Harjo who is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Harjo draws on First Nation storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Her

Praise the rain; the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk—
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep—
Praise the mist, the warrior name
The earth eclipse, the fired leap—
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down—
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—

Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we’re led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.

Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.

Just the Miracle, Please.

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

March 16, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings are about prophets and miracles, brought to us by Elisha and Jesus.

The core of the readings is this: some of us want the prophets’ miracles, but we don’t want their challenge to live in God’s freedom. We want their cures, only to return to lifestyles that make us spiritually sick or imprisoned.

Wanting to write about these themes, I decided to check with my favorite Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann to see if he had any wisdom on the story of Naaman.

Naaman
Naaman brings his retinue and gifts… from The Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land (1844) by John Kitto

Well, Walter certainly did…. something so good and wise that I won’t water it down with my own words. The link is below. It’s a little long, but so worth your reading and meditation. I hope you’ll take the time.

Click here for Walter Brueggemann’s article

Music: some instrumental music to listen to while you’re reading🙏😇