Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 19:
There are three parts to this Psalm: 1. All of creation witnesses to the glory of God. 2. The scriptures produce virtues in those who read/hear it. 3. We are dependent on God for restoration and redemption. Psalm 19 is given to God as an offering with the hope of God’s acceptance, pardon for sin, and restoration to communion with God. Depending on which commentary or reflection your read, one of these three things is emphasized. And, depending on where you are in your faith journey, one of these three things or maybe all of them (although two out of three isn’t bad) speak to you. I wanted to offer two different reflections I came across that felt meaningful to share in worship this morning as we meditate on this Psalm during the music of the prelude.
I have found comfort in 12 step programs, particularly Al Anon to be helpful during the pandemic. Especially with their emphasis on letting go of the things I can not control and focusing instead of what I can change (which is only myself) and letting God handle everything else.
From Jeff Dafler’s “Sobriety”: For many years, I clung to the dangerous idea that I made the rules. I was convinced of my uniqueness and beloved that I could–and must–bend the world to my will. The more tightly I held onto this false idea, the more frustration and disappointment I felt. As I built up my resentments and wallowed in self-pity, I began to drown myself in alcohol. Psalm 19 tells us about a better way. If we let go of our old idea ht we are in control or instead cling to our Higher Power’s plan for our lives, things can and will get better. If we can honestly and fully embrace God’s will for our lives, the psalmist tells us in verse 7 and 8 what is in store for us: God will revive our souls and make us wise. Our hearts will rejoice and we will (finally!) see clearly. How priceless are such gifts! They are offered to us free of charge. All we have to do is follow this simple program for our lives. That program is laid out in the Psalms and in the Twelve Steps. In both versions, it starts with a basic acceptance that turns our old idea on its head: We can’t. God can. We need to let him.
This reflection from “the words of her mouth” by Layton E. Williams: There is something in the stars that makes me believe in you: their vastness, yes, but also their steadfastness, their constant presence, whether I can see the shape of them or not; Something in the rising and the setting that shows me the beautiful goodness of dark and light, of new and old, of welcoming and letting go. In these most ordinary, everyday realities of your creation, made also astounding, I am reminded that you are at work in all things–and in me. Even in me. Let me be a witness like the sun and stars, an ordinary and astounding testament to Grace.
Welcoming and letting go. And letting everything else be in God’s control.
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.
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 blessings and release my control.
Or you may want to use a short phrase: Welcoming and letting go. Letting everything else be in God’s control.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“”Lord, my rock and my redeemer” are the last words of Psalm 19. On the way to that confessional conclusion the psalm speaks of the creation’s testimony to the creator (vv. 1-6), the incomparable value of the law of the LORD (vv. 7-10), and the hymn need for divine forgiveness and protection (vv 11-13). One must meditate on all three parts and make the whole the worlds of the heart in order to understand the devotion and trust expressed in the concluding confession.” Mays p. 96
“The sum of the first part of the psalm can be stated quite simply. The world witnesses to God. The creator manifests the glory of its creator.” Mays p. 97 “The second part of the psalm is a precisely constructed poetic passage exalting the virtues, benefits, and desirability of the torah of the LORD” Mays p. 98 “The third part of the psalm is a prayer for God’s help. In the prayer the psalmist acknowledges that he cannot be righteous through torah alone. [He is dependent on God for restoration].” Mays p. 99
“In a rare identification, the composer tells us what this psalm is and what it is for (v. 14). The psalmist calls it “words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart.” It is composed for the oral recitation in an act of worship. The words express the music of the heart, the seat of consciousness in which thoughts are formed. Through the words the heart finds voice and the self is presented to God. The prayer seres the purpose of sacrifice; “be acceptable” is a technical term for qualified offerings to God at the sanctuary. In the temple service, sacrifices were offered to seek God’s pardon and restoration (Leviticus 4-5; Num. 15:22-31). In the intention of the psalmist, this prayer poem is such an offering.” Mays p. 100
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.
DAFLER, J. (2021). PSOBRIETY: A journey of recovery through the psalms. Louisville, KY: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX.
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
Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 25, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 22, 3rd Sunday in Lent Psalm 19, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 107, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 51 or Psalm 119:9-16, 6th Sunday in Lent (Palm or Passion Sunday) Psalm 118 or 31
Holy Week: Monday Psalm 36, Tuesday Psalm 71, Wednesday Psalm 70, Maundy Thursday Psalm 116, Good Friday Psalm 22, Holy Saturday Psalm 31