This series is exploding the Psalms in year D. Here are the other blog links: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 102; 1st Sunday in Lent: Psalm 6; 2nd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 143; 3rd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 38; 4th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 39; 5th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 101.
Word, Share, Prayer: Read the scripture, share what you heard (with someone or in a journal) and then pray. Simple. Meaningful. Get a wordier description from by Psalm 6 blog post.
Liturgy writing exercise: Similar to ‘word, share, prayer’ but what makes this a little different is that the intention is to have something ready for worship. I mentioned in the Psalm 102 blog that I did a liturgy writing exercise with the Third Church Session in February 2020. We didn’t have time to do a lot of editing but maybe you do. Edit until you like what you have. Don’t forget to read it aloud.
Lectio Divina (Divine Reading): This one is difficult for me. No writing. No analyzing. Just a calm state of mind, reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. You can listen to an example in my Psalm 143 blog.
Gratitude exercise: Share three things you are grateful for with someone else and listen to what they are grateful for. Just doing this simple exercise can help to change your attitude about your current situation. For example, I am grateful for my husband who made three meals today, I am grateful that my dog reminds me to get up and stretch (to let her out), and I am grateful that I am comfortable in my home (especially since I’ll be spending a lot of time here).
Or start a gratitude journal where you list what you are grateful for each day. The nice part about a journal is that you can re-read your list when you are feeling not-so-grateful and remind yourself of all that you do have to be grateful for.
Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to Psalm 101 in the Contemporary English Version (with some bird noises):
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
The psalm begins with praise for hesed which is a loaded word: kindness, mercy, loving-kindness, loyal-loving-kindess, justice-loving-mercy… the list could go on, but I didn’t bring my BDB home with me so I can’t get you the official list. The point is that we don’t have an english word that means exactly what hesed means. But, its a lot of good stuff, the kind of good stuff we want someone in charge to manifest.
We have another Hebrew word that is “translated ‘blameless’ in verses 2 and 6 (tamim) and ‘integrity’ in verse 2 (tom). The notion refers to what is whole, complete, finished; in reference to conduct, the word group describes acts act are coherent and consistent in relation to some foundational value. Here it would be the loyalty and justice of the LORD; the way of the blameless is the characteristic conduct of those whose motives and choices and acts are consistent with their dependence on the LORD.” (James L. Mays, “Psalms: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, page. 321)
“The psalm is a vow to develop a character and to practice a life that is coherent with a theological morality. …. The psalm teaches the it is not enough for those who lead to live by the legalities and govern by codes. It is the character of the governor and the character of those in his government that really determine what the effect of their governing is on the governed.” (Interpretation p. 322)
When I’m at Soul Core (or watching it now) the instructor reminds us to honor our bodies wherever they are today, to be grateful for the stretch, and to meditate on (fill in the blank virtue). This sequence of ideas has really started to shape how I think about myself. Like other women, I fall victim to body shaming myself. Honoring where my body is today, makes me feel present in the moment, and it allows me to know that wherever I am today is different from where my body was yesterday (couch potato… wait, I wasn’t supposed to judge me… let’s say resting) and will be tomorrow (tomorrow I will be a little sore, but thankful I did the prayer/work out). This phrase gives me permission to love me just as I am in this moment. Grateful for stretching is not something I would have thought on my own. I forget what a gift it is to have a body that moves and I even berate myself for not being able to stretch more. I am grateful she says this phrase because it calls me back to where I’m supposed to be, grateful and meditating on the virtue. Sometimes, she calls me back and sometimes I am with her already, because I have practiced being grateful for the stretch my mind wonders less into body shaming than it used to; and for that I am exceedingly grateful.
For me, Soul Core reminds me of what I want to be: grateful, calm, kind, patient, loving, merciful, etc.
Psalm 101 is supposed to do for a king (maybe we should read president or governor) what Soul Core does for me. Psalm 101 commends rulers to be: kind, just, honest, trustworthy, etc. We need leaders like this, in the midst of an epidemic, and always. I hope and pray that our leaders make decisions that show kindness and justice towards vulnerable people. I pray that our leaders are honest with us and that we can trust they are making the best decisions possible in the current situation. And I pray that we can get over the partisan *stuff* so that we can come out of this as a unified and loving people. Miracles can happen.
But, I don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about stuff I have no control over (yes, I vote and I understand that as a voting citizen some of this is in my power). What I actually can control is myself. In fact, sometimes I am the only “thing” I can control. It feels that way a lot right now. I have little control over anything but my own thoughts and actions during social distancing. I can’t control how much toilet paper people are hoarding. I can’t control sick people who leave their homes without regard for the rest of us. I can’t control that the shutdowns mean the all of my favorite distractions are closed, the nail salon, the movie theater, the thrift stores, and my favorite dinner (I can pick up my food but no one is going to bring me coffee and a smile). But I can control my reactions to these things. I can chose gratitude. It’s hard to do, but the more I refocus my mind towards gratitude the easier it is to find gratefulness again.
Let us pray:
This prayer comes from Fran Pratt, author of “Call and Response: Litanies for Congregational Prayer”
Litany for Gratitude
Great God, you create the good earth and all its creatures, the heavens and all they contain. We give thanks.
You created us to be in community with you, and to please you. We give thanks.
You give us life. You give us consciousness. You give us love. We give thanks.
For the blessings of family, friendships, and worldly provision, We give thanks.
For the blessings of talent, aptitude, and meaningful work, We give thanks.
For the blessings of food, drink, and good conversation – those times of feast and enjoyment, We give thanks.
For the blessings of trivial pleasures, small gifts meant for our happiness, We give thanks.
For the blessings of expression, song, art, human ingenuity, and creativity, We give thanks.
For the blessings of peace that come from knowing you, We give thanks.
When we survive mishaps, We give thanks.
When we endure consequence and pain, We give thanks.
When we must combat evil with goodness and love, We give thanks.
When we must deny ourselves, bear burdens, and obey, We give thanks.
When we must suffer loss and disappointment, We give thanks.
When we must come to the end of our physical lives, We give thanks.
When we chose violence and rebellion, you made a way to recover us. We give thanks.
The way of Christ, the true and full, shining image of your love. We give thanks.
For Jesus Christ and the Kingdom he began here, in which you invite us to participate, We give thanks.
And for the experience of living on earth, in all its paradoxes and mingling of joy and suffering, We give thanks.
If this was fun (or if you are staying in with nothing else to do), you can do the same type of reflection for the other psalms.
I would be happy to receive recordings of Psalm readings or prayers that you would like to offer for use in the blog and “worship like experiences” our congregation.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Gratitude. Breath out. Negativity. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Wash your hands. 😉