Breath on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love as thou dost love and do as thou wouldst do. (PH #316 Breathe on Me, Breath of God)
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 104:
Psalm 104 is a poem about God’s sovereignty over all of creation. Wind and fire, tall trees and mountains, grass and cattle, fierce lions and their prey, sun and moon, and wine for the gladdening of hearts are all works of God. Even the Leviathan, the chaos monster, is cast as God’s favorite oceanic pet playing in the deep waters of the sea. God delights in and cares for each created being. Each of us, from the tiniest organism to the biggest sea monster depends on God for life and breath.
God’s ruach (breath, wind, spirit) provides us with physical and spiritual life. Which is why we this psalm is read on Pentecost. The ruach of God formed all of creation and continues to breathe new life. Our response to God’s gift of life and renewed life is to be who we are created to be and praise God.
In this community of believers, we call Third Church, on Pentecost we reflect on who we are and where the spirit of God is leading us next. We are part of a tradition of faith that has gathered people together for over a hundred years on the corner of Fifth and Negley. In the past this church was known as an abolitionist church. And we are figuring out what it means to do anti-racist work today. In the past, this church supported women and continues to draw strong women into the fold. And we are figuring out what it means to be feminists that support people in all of the places feminism intersects with race, sexuality, and gender. In the past, this church supported schools, teachers, and students. And today we are figuring out how to strengthen those relationships and support those with special needs as they go through school and launch into adulthood. Our church has always tried to make worship and life together beautiful and joyful so we’ve supported artists and musicians too. And today we continue to find ways to live together with intentional beauty. It seems that from the beginning God has breathed into us a spirit of social justice, a drive for educational opportunities, and a love for all that is good and beautiful.
Let us take a moment to focus on our breathing. Breath is a gift from God. Let us remember who God created us to be as individuals and as a community of believers. We have been wonderfully made. Let us seek in all things to be ourselves and to praise God by living into the Holy Spirits call on our lives.
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 control.
Or you may want to use a short phrase: Breath on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love as thou dost love and do as thou wouldst do. (PH #316 Breathe on Me, Breath of God)
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 104 begins and ends just as does Psalm 103, with a call to the “soul” to bless YHWH; these are the only places in the Psalter where such a call occurs.” W p. 59
“…a magnificent poetic account of God’s sovereignty over all creation…” W p. 59
“Finally, in verses 27-35 the singer sums up the message of the psalm, which is that all of God’s creation depends on God, and God alone, for sustenance and for life itself, and that the only proper response by creation is song, praise, meditation, and rejoicing (vv. 33-34).” W p. 59
“Psalm 104 has many parallels with Psalm 103… …. Read together, then, the two psalms remind readers or hearers that the two fundamental characteristics of YHWH are those of creator and sustainer.” W p. 60
“Psalm 104 begins and ends with the same self-exhortation that opens and closes Psalm 103: “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” The sentence appears only in these two psalms; its repetition holds them together as a pair. The fist speaks of the abounding steadfast love of the LORD; the second, of the innumberable creatures made and sustained by the wisdom of the LORD. Together the pair praise the LORD as the savior who forgives and the creator who provides. Both see their themes as expressions of the LORD’s kingship (103:19-21 and 104:1-4).” Mays p. 331
“Even the Leviathan, the chaos monster of the mythic tradition, becomes a tamed creature of the LORD!” Mays p. 333
“Faith in the creator teaches that with respect to existence in the world and dependence on it for life, we are one among many. “The LORD God made them all.”” Mays p. 334
“The LORD even formed that mysterious mighty denizen of three deep called Leviathan (see Job 3:8; 41:25; Isa. 27:1). The poet means to bring every living thing, no matter how strange or terrible some of them appeared to the mind of his day, within the defining compass of one category–the “works of the LORD”.” Mays pp. 334-335
…”the breath of God is sent by God to create living creatures and to renew the earth with life. When new creation occurs and life appears, the ruach of the LORD is at work.” Mays p. 335
“The wish that the wicked vanish from the earth (v.35) seems to conclude the lovely hymn with a jarring discord. Bu the wish is utterly consistent with the psalm’s vision of the world because the wicked do not fit into that vision. Yet they are there in the world. They live in the LORD’s world and benefit from his providence as do all other creatures. God sends his rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45). But in their lives the wicked defy the sovereignty of God, deny their dependence on him, and offend and afflict those who praise the LORD. So the psalm wishes they were not there so that the response of the creature to their creator would be unbroken.” Mays pp. 335-336
“The psalm, read on Pentecost, places God’s gift of our physical life alongside the gift of our spiritual life. Both are the work of the Spirit of God.” Mays p. 337
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.
Chittister Chittister, Joan. (2011). Songs of the heart: reflections on the psalms. John Garratt Publishing.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach 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 McCann, J. C. (1993). A theological introduction to the book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah. Nashville, TN: Abingdon 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