God of stars and broken hearts, hear the world’s prayers and mine.
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 147:
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.
Nicole Cardoza’s Guided Meditation For Anxiety
Try this short meditation, created by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, the next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. Read in Yoga Journal.
Mr. Roger’s “Taking a breath” This one is short, but Mr. Roger’s voice is calming for me (and many Pittsburghers) and even his virtual presence can summon childhood memories of calmness and safety.
“God of Stars and Broken Hearts” is the title given to Psalm 147 in the Word Biblical Commentary. It’s fitting for a psalm that praises God for counting the stars and gathering the outcasts. In this setting, we assume that the outcasts are synonymous with the faithful, but that is not always the case for us today. I read one reflection on this psalm with the title “not true” that simply contained verse 6, “The LORD lifts up the downtrodden; God casts the wicked to the ground.” and a list of people whose lives were ended violently because of the racism and hate in their attackers and in our country. The list is four pages long (Marilyn Pagan-Banks, Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press.) when the book was published early in 2020, and I can think of several more names that should be added, I’m sure you can too. And perhaps that is why we need this psalm still. Praise and prayer are supposed to change us. When we read the psalms, we see what God is up to, holding creation together in its vastness and in the cracks in the smallest heart. God loves creation by uniting with it. And when we are made one with God, we are made one with each other, and with all of creation.
All people and all creation are worthy of love and care.
Perhaps, if we are united with God, we are in the business of gathering the outcasts, healing the broken hearted, and binding up all of their wounds. Let us pray and let us be an answer to prayer.
Let us pray:
One way to think about breath prayer is that whatever is exhaled other people will inhale. So, sometimes we might inhale and exhale the same idea with the hope that what we receive from God, we can share with others. For example, you may imagine receiving God’s steadfast love while praying that others are receiving God’s steadfast love.
Another way to think about breath prayer is to pick something you would like to receive for your inhalation and something you would like to release for your exhalation. The idea is to keep it simple, so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale. That simple prayer could be something like this: God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your love and release my heartache.
Or maybe a short simple prayer will suffice for today: God of stars and broken hearts, hear the world’s prayers and mine.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“God of Stars and Broken Hearts” WBC p. 304
“Psalm 147 is the second of the five Hallel psalms that form the doxological end of the book of Psalms. Classified as a community hymn, it celebrates God’s sovereign reign over the community of faith an all of creation.” W p. 306
“In both Psalms 146 and 147 the psalm singers celebrate God as sovereign over all creation as well as over the community of the faithful.” W p. 309
“This post-exilic hymn is a medley of two interwoven themes, Yahweh’s power in the sphere of nature, both as creator and as controller, and his patronage of the covenant people, demonstrated in recent history specifically and in the general attitude of grace which may be deduced therefrom. The psalm divides into three strophes, each with its own short exhortation to praise and a development in terms of this double content.” WBC p. 309
“The LORD is so much the content of praise that praise begins to reflect his attributes. In it his goodness is apparent. Through it the singers experience pleasure over the delightfulness of the LORD. The psalm can be read as a verbal portrait of that delightfulness.” Mays p. 442
“The psalm was written for the Jerusalem congregation (v.12) in the period of the restoration after the exile (vv. 2-3, 13-14). The way that particular experience of the LORD’s help is expressed is one example of the way hymnic theology in Israel’s praise turns a specific deed of the LORD into a general confession. The hymn does not say in narrative mode that the LORD rebuilt Zion and gathered the outcasts, but using participles it makes the deed a typical activity, a feature of the character of the LORD. Th deed becomes a symbol, a means of knowledge of God and a guide to what to expect from him. So Israel, and later the church, can say through the years in its praise, “The LORD builds Jerusalem,” and state its confidence that the LORD not only founded the church but restores and gathers it when it passes through tribulation.” Mays p. 443
The word of the LORD: “The psalmist speaks of it as an agent of God’s rule set to do his bidding (vv. 15, 18). The word is an active force by which the LORD deals with the world.” Mays p. 443
“The psalm is the fruit of deep meditation upon sacred literature, as the section on Form/Structure/Setting indicated. Arranging and reworking what he read into his own artistic composition, the psalmist produced a new song of praise. He exults in a God at work in nature and in recent history, a God whose spoken word is heard by the ear of faith both in the winter storms and in the recited law. Yahweh’s power is harnessed to his grace. Yet this divine generosity lays obligations upon his chosen people, not only to praise but ever to trust with hope and to obey.” WBC p. 310
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.
W de Claisse-Walford, Nancy L. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 4-5. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 22. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2020.
W Hopkins, Denise Dombkowski. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 2-3. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 21. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2016.
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.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
Schlimm Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 2018. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. Nashville, TN: Abington Press.
Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim 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.
I began writing Psalm reflections during Lent of 2020 shortly after we decided to close the church building, work from home, and worship via zoom. Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Starting in Advent 2019, Third Church decided to worship with the texts from Year D, which is still not circulated as are years 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. Reflections exploring the Psalms in year D. While we were using Year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A. Now that we are rejoining those who use the lectionary, we are on Year B. This we hope will keep all of us planning and preparing worship on the same page.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections when I’m following the Revised Common Lectionary.
Other Year B Psalm blog posts:
Advent – Transfiguration: 1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 80, 2nd Sunday in Advent Psalm 85, 3rd Sunday in Advent Psalm 126, 4th Sunday in Advent Psalm 89, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, 1st Sunday after Christmas, Psalm 148, New Year’s Day Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Christmas Psalm 147, Epiphany Psalm 72, 1st Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 139, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 62, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 111, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 147, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 50