Idolatry is the mistaken thinking God is like us, and worshiping our false image of God.
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 :
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
Breath Prayer: I am including breath prayers because this is the practice that I engage in most often. Sometimes, I simply manage my breathing as I would when I was singing as a warmup and strengthening exercise. This practice helps me to feel centered, strong, and connected with myself and the divine. Sometimes, I add words or intentions for the inhalation and exhalation.
I did a breath prayer video for my friends at Missing Peace.
Idolatry is the mistaken thought that God is like us, and then worshiping that false image of God.
It is a mistake easily made, especially, if you believe that you are created in the image of God. It’s true. We are all created in God’s image. Each and every person bares God’s image. But sometimes, we think the reverse is also true, that if we bare God’s image, God must bare our image. And the reverse is not true.
When I was little, I learned to sing “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,” but I learned to sing it in a mostly white suburban church. The Jesus in the nativity set was white. The only diversity in the nativity set, and therefore in my imagination came from the wisemen. They were the red, yellow, and black representatives. The baby in the manger, Jesus, the God incarnate I worshipped and adored, was white. Without knowing it, I internalized a white male God, and before I could sing the alternative lyrics, I internalized them, “White and white and white and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world”. And because I’m white, I feel loved by a God who looks like me and more special than those who don’t look like me or my God. “Red and yellow, black and blue, Jesus loves me more than you, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” The spiraling path of racism and self-glorification only lead to the central sin of idolatry; worshiping a God who is like me.
The good news is that sin is forgivable and forgiven. God desires my transformation not my destruction. With God’s help, my misunderstanding, racism, and self-glorification is replaced with new learning and understanding, anti-racism, and worship of God.
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Edited to add:
During zoom worship, a congregation member added this verse to the chat:
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Every color, shape and size, they are precious in his eyes.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Let us pray:
God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your holiness and release my idols. You can always pick different words for your breath prayer. But the idea of a breath prayer is to keep it simple so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“This psalm is not a hymn or prayer or song of thanksgiving. It is composed on the model of a speech for trial proceedings. It begins with an introduction (vv. 1-6) in which the LORD appears, convenes court, and summon this covenant people as defendants. The body of the psalm is a speech made by the LORD to put the worship (vv. 7-15) and the conduct (vv. 16-22) of the covenant people under judgement. The speech ends with a summary statement on worship and conduct, a sort of instructive finding of the court (v. 23).” Mays p. 194
“A trinity of names identify the judge; he is El, Elohim, and YHWH, whose authority reaches from one horizon of earth to the other (v.1).” Mays p. 194
“As personnel and witnesses for the trial the LORD summons heaven and earth (vv. 4, 1, 6). In the ancient Near East, lists of gods were invoked as witnesses and enforcers of sworn agreements and treaties. In the theological dramatization of covenant proceedings between the Lord and Israel, heaven and earth as cosmic personifications replace the gods (Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2; Micah 6:1-2).” Mays pp. 194-195
“As defendants the LORD calls those “who made a covenant with me (confirmed) by sacrifice” (v. 5). The effect of this identification is to equate those to whom the psalm is being spoken with the congregation of Israel at Sinai (Exod. 24:3-8). They are the hasidim of the LORD, the ones whose identity and life are determined by the covenant they have made with the LORD (NRSV, “faithful ones”; NJPS “devotes”). To be a hasid is to hold oneself subject to the LORD under the claims of the covenant. The terms of the covenant are set out in statutes (v. 16) and words (v. 17, i.e., commandments; see Exod. 20:1). The covenant belongs to the liturgical life of hasidim; they recite its terms and pledge allegiance to its commitment (v. 16). By participation in the worship of Israel they have entered into the relation established at Sinai.” Mays p. 195
“The patience of God with his people, the forbearance of the LORD in the face of misunderstanding and faithlessness, could lead to a terrible conclusion. The congregation could make the very worst mistake. They might think of the LORD, and may already think of the LORD, as one like themselves. To project themselves on God and take that for the ultimate reality in terms of which to live, instead of determination of life–what hideous error!” Mays p. 195
“The problem is a misunderstanding and misuse of sacrifice. …. The scornful questions about God’s being hungry and eating the sacrifices are a vehement attack on worship that thinks of God as like the worshiper.” Mays p. 196
“There is a disparity, goes the accusation, between confession (v. 16) and conduct (v. 17). They recite the statues and ignore the commandments. They confess the covenant and reject its discipline. But covenanters must conform to the covenant. Disciples out observe discipline. Servants of God must bring innate human willfulness and selfishness under the control of commitment.” Mays p. 196
“Psalm 50 represents a type and style of speech that the prophets employed (e.g., Isa. 4:13-15). But where the prophets would typically conclude an indictment with an announcement of punishment, this saying concludes with warning and interaction (vv. 22-23). It threatens punishment (compare v. 22b with Hos. 5:14) but offers another way. Understanding must replace misunderstanding. Conduct must take the right way. If the speech is heard, God will save instead of punish.” Mays p. 197
“This psalm can and must be heard in the liturgy of the church because the Christian community has been incorporated into the people of the LORD by a covenant made though the sacrifice of Jesus Messiah (Mark 14:25).” Mays p. 197
WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
Brueggemann Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.
OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Other Year D Psalm blog posts:
I’m attempting a series exploring the Psalms in year D. Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others.
I began this series in Lent 2020. These blog posts include examples of meditation or spiritual discipline or mindfulness exercises. Here are the 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; 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35. I went a different direction during Holy Week and dropped the Psalms for a while, but I’m hoping to pick them back up again.
I’m going to try to move forward with the Psalms so that it might be useful for worship in the coming weeks and hoping that I can also go back and pick up some of the ones I missed.
Holy Week: Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35, Maundy Thursday Psalm 115 or 113, Good Friday Psalm 88, Holy Saturday (Great Vigil) Psalms 7, 17, 44, 57 or 108, 119:145-176, 149.
The Season of Easter: Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) Psalm 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76, 2nd Sunday in Easter Psalm 64 or Psalm 119:73-96, 3rd Sunday in Easter Psalm 60 or 108, 4th Sunday in Easter Psalm 10, 5th Sunday in Easter Psalm 49: (1-12) 13-20, 6thSunday in Easter Psalm 129, Ascension Thursday Psalm 119:145-176, 7th Sunday in Easter Psalm 115, and Pentecost Sunday Psalm 119:113-136.
Then we move into “ordinary time” which is broken up into sections throughout the liturgical year. Remember that the year starts with Advent (I started this adventure in Lent) so some of the ordinary Sundays have already happened.
Trinity -Ordinary Time- Christ the King: Trinity Sunday Psalm 35, 9th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 142, 10th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 74, 11th Sunday Psalm 7, 12th Sunday Psalm 55, 13th Sunday Psalm 56, and 14th Sunday Psalm 57 or Psalm 3.
The Apocalyptic Discourse 15th -19th Sundays in Ordinary time: 15th Sunday Psalm 17:8-14(15) or Psalm 83, 16th Sunday Psalm 54, 17th Sunday Psalm 50 or Psalm 105, 18th Sunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.