May we become your sanctuary
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 114:
Hallelujah! God has done the impossible again. The same God who parted the red sea, the one who produced water from a stone, is the same God who conquered death and lives within us. Let us tremble before the presence of God. May we become your sanctuary. Hallelujah!
Sometimes I am amazed at the calmness with which we read aloud these ancient texts. I can tell you for sure, that I wouldn’t have been the first person to walk through the parted sea. I’m not sure that my thirst would overcome my suspicion of a rock that with the touch of a rod brought forth water. And I certainly would have cried at the empty tomb, not out of sorrow, but out of fear and confusion. I can only speak for myself, but perhaps some of you feel this way too. I am much more comfortable with a God who ordered the cosmos, put the stars and planets in their courses, and then watched as all of creation moved like a well-ordered watch than I am of a God who breaks through in an unexpected way. As a Presbyterian I desire everything to proceed decently and in order and I expect that the way will be made clear. But what I have learned as a person of faith, is that the way isn’t always clear, things don’t go as planned, we will experience fear, sorrow, and confusion. And yet, God is present with us, just as God was present in the unclear, scary, and confusing times for faithful people of all times who told and recorded their stories of God’s presence to find meaning and hope.
Psalm 114 is a text that helps us stay grounded in our faith when we lose our awareness of God’s presence in our midst; it reminds us of how God became the holy presence among Israel, and that God is the holy presence among us now. Psalm 114 is read by God’s people on occasions when the connection between our story and God’s holy Presence is crucial important for connecting us with meaning and hope. We are where and who we are “by the self-manifestation of the God who rules all peoples and times. [Our] story belongs to the plot line of the coming kingdom of God. The church has read and sung the psalm in the light of what happened in Judah and Israel through Jesus Christ. It sees in his death and resurrection yet another and a climatic theophany of the divine rule in which the Presence assumes a new relation to people and place.” Mays p. 365
Just as God’s people experienced the Presence as a pillar of fire, and in the man Jesus, the empty tomb at Easter reminds us that we will experience God’s presence among us in a new way. God lived among us and now God lives within us. We are God’s sanctuary. And this new way means we have a choice to make. You see, in Psalm 114 (and in other Psalms) there is a word that the NRSV translates as “tremble” so verse 7 reads “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord”. And as I mentioned, this is my default position, trembling fearfully at the awesome power of God. But there are other scholars making the case for this word to be translated as “dance”. So, I don’t have to choose suspicion, dread, and fear. I can choose excitement, hope, and love. Dance, O earth, at the presence of the Lord.
Hallelujah! God has done the impossible again. The same God who parted the red sea, the one who produced water from a stone, is the same God who conquered death and lives within us. Let us dance before the presence of God. May we become your joyful sanctuary. Hallelujah!
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 love and release my fear.
Or you may want to use a short phrase:
Dance, O earth, at the presence of the Lord. May we become your joyful sanctuary.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“While Psalm 114 is usually categorized as a song of praise, it is a distinctive one. There is no invitation to praise, except perhaps v.7, which is addressed not to persons but to the earth. Most of the psalm could be considered an elaboration of reasons for praise, but they are not simply listed in the usual manner following an invitation to praise.” NIB p. 626
“Psalm 114 is the second psalm in the Egyptian Hallel. Psalm 113 is sung at the blessing of the first Passover cup of wine. It calls its hearers to praise the name of YHWH for all of YHWH’s goodness to the people and is an apt introduction to the Passover story, which is then recounted in Psalm 114.” W p. 128
“Psalm 114 is somewhat unusual in the Egyptian Hallel collection. It does not include that “hallelujah” that is characteristic of this group of psalms. Since Psalm 113 both begins and ends with “hallelujah” and Psalms 115-117 end with it, some suggest that the final “hallelujah” of Psalm 113 be transferred to the beginning of Psalm 114. The final psalm in this collection, however, Psalm 118, also does not have “hallelujah” either at is beginning or end, so the seemingly missing “hallelujah” in Psalm 114 need not be viewed as problematic.” W p. 128
“Psalm 114 tells how the LORD came to be the holy Presence in the midst of Israel and, at the same time, how the God who is sovereign of the whole earth came to have this particular people as his dominion. It is thus a kind of poetic etiology of the situation assumed by all the psalms.” Mays p. 363
“Psalm 114 is a poetic affirmation of faith that lies at the heart of the whole Bible: the God who rules the cosmos is made known in space and time for the purpose of properly ordering the world and the human community.” NIB p. 627
“The psalm is designed for occasions when the connection between the story and Presence is crucial important.” Mays p. 364
“As the second in the Hallel sequence of psalms sung at the joyous festivals of Judaism and at Passover (see Psalm 113), Psalm 114 had a crucial role to play in connecting place and people with meaning and hope. The celebrants are reminded that they have come to be where and who they are by the self-manifestation of the God who rules all peoples and times. Their story belongs to the plot line of the coming kingdom of God. The church has read and sung the psalm in the light of what happened in Judah and Israel through Jesus Christ. It sees in his death and resurrection yet another and a climatic theophany of the divine rule in which the Presence assumes a new relation to people and place.” Mays p. 365
“While the NRSV translates Psalm 96:6 as “tremble before him, all the earth,” Arthur Walker-Jones, in The Green Psalter, translates the verse as “Worship the LORD in sacred glory; Dance before him all the Earth.”…. We may ask the same question of Psalm 114. Is verse 7 calling on the earth to “tremble” or to “dance” at the presence of YHWH?” W p. 130
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.
Merrill, N. C. (2020). Psalms for praying an invitation to wholeness (10th Anniversary Edition ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing.
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, 3rdSunday 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, 3rdSunday 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
Easter: Easter Psalm 118 or 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 133, 3rd Sunday of Easter Psalm 4, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 22, 6th Sunday of Easter Psalm 98, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 1, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104