For all are called to be friends, companions to the true Friend, giving their lives joyfully as co-creators and people of peace! Praises be to the Blessed One, the very Breath of our breath, the very Heart of our heart!
Nan C. Merrill Psalm 148
I grew up watching a cartoon called, “Captain Planet”. When the kids summoned the powers of their individual rings earth, air, fire, water, heart, Captain Planet would arrive and save the day by stopping someone from creating more pollution. It wasn’t riveting television. But it did make the point that we have to care (heart) about all of the elements and living beings (made up of elements) if any of us is going to survive on this planet.
Hildegard of Bingen understood a similar set of elements making up the cosmos and all beings, especially humans. “Heart” had more to do with soul or spirit in her work and was seen as a gift from the creator. She combined her theology and science to describe how the cosmos was ordered by God. You can read more detail about her thoughts in the link in the picture description. Her love of art, music, and healing/medicine come though in her work as well. God is creator of all that is good.
I think there is something to the elements that we need pointing us to something larger than our selves and even larger than the collective living beings on earth. These needed elements also become symbols that help us understand our relationship to the divine and to the earth and to each other.
Let us worship God.
From the Presbyterian Hymnal #270 O God of Earth and Space by Jane Parker Huber:
O God of Earth and Space, of sea and fire and air, Your providence surrounds us here and everywhere. In fruit and grain and tree, in shelter from the cold, in cooling breezes, flowing wells, now as of old. Where faithfulness is show, where love and truth abound, Where beauty graces human life, there you are found. Inspirer of all thought! Creative force of art! The melody on every tongue, in every heart! Wherever freedom reigns, Where sin is overthrown, Where justice fused with mercy rules, there you are known. Give us the courage clear to make the earth a home For all to live in harmony in Christ's shalom. Your word commands response and summons us to life. We follow, strengthened by your grace, in calm or strife. Our ever-present help, Our challenge and our prod, We praise you know and to life's end, Eternal God.
The Lord’s Prayer:
If you are new to breath prayer, I’ve recorded some examples:
Here are some simple breath prayers to accompany this psalm:
Meditate on breath (the breath of God being our breath)
A simple prayer with one word on exhalation and one on inhalation: God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your blessings and release my carelessness.
Or you can split a longer phrase between inhalation and exhalation or put a phrase on both. Here is an example: Praises be to the Blessed One, the very Breath of our breath, the very Heart of our heart!
Do what is most comfortable to you. Breath prayer is a practice not something we do perfectly. Some days will be easier than others.
Ok, everyone, take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
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. It is a practice I have continued since. Many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary (RLC) 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. While we were using Psalms in year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A. In Advent of 2020 we rejoined those who use the lectionary in year B. Advent of 2021 follows year C of lectionary pattern with Psalms in year C.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections.
Other Year C Psalm blog posts:
Advent – Transfiguration: 1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 25, 2nd Sunday in Advent instead of a Psalm the lectionary gives Luke 1:68-79, 3rd Sunday in Advent instead of a Psalm the lectionary gives Isaiah 12:2-6, 4th Sunday in Advent Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80, 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 35, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 19, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 71, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 138, 6th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 1, 7th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 37, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 99
Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 91, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 27, 3rdSunday in Lent Psalm 63, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 32, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 126, 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 Psalm 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 150, 3rdSunday of Easter Psalm 30, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 148, 6thSunday of Easter Psalm 67, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 97, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104
Season After Pentecost (Ordinary Time): 1st Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 or Psalm 22, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 77 or Psalm 16, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 30 or Psalm 66, 5th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 82 or Psalm 25, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 52 or Psalm 15, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 85 or Psalm 138, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 107 or Psalm 49, 9thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 50 or Psalm 33, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 80 or Psalm 82, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 71 or Psalm 103, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 81 or Psalm 112, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139 or Psalm 1, 14th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 14 or Psalm 51, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 113, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 146, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 137 or Psalm 37, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 66 or Psalm 111, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 121, 20thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 65 or Psalm 84, 21st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 32, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 145 or Psalm 98 or Psalm 17, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 98, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 46.
Sources and notes:
“Psalms 146-150, the final Hallel of the Psalter, each begin and end with “Praise the LORD” and together form the closing doxology of book 5 of the Psalter as a whole. The group follows the movement observed in Psalm145, from an individual hymn (Ps 146) to a community hymn (Ps 147) to a creation psalm (Ps 148) to exuberant praise (Pss 149-150).” W p. 303
“Indeed, the psalm not only opens and closes with a “Praise the LORD,” but once having uttered this cry of praise, the psalm repeats the cry over and over. The reason seems to lie in the purpose of the psalm. It is a hymn composed as an invitation to all creation and creatures to join in the praise of the LORD.” Mays p. 444
“The motif “all” punctuates the roll call to insist that the list is inclusive, representative of everything that is.” Mays p. 444
“Psalm 148 is an invitation to all of creation and its inhabitants–the rather and the heavens–to join in the praise of God. All are included; none are excluded from the call.” W p. 312
“Echos of Genesis 1:1-2:4 are scattered through the psalm.” Mays p. 445
“We human beings are one with all being in our relation to One whose name alone is exalted and whose majesty is above earth and heaven.” Mays p. 445
“The creation and the creatures praise in their very being and doing, by existing and filling their assigned place. But verse 14 says something more about Israel as the faithful people of the LORD. For them, the LORD “has raised up a horn”; the expression is an idiom for the bestowal of dignity and fame (75:10; 92:10; 112:9). The LORD has given his faithful praise as their dignity and power. They are the ones who are “near” to him, know and can speak his exalted name. They are given the praise with which to voice the unspoken praise of all creation. Praise is their place and purpose. In the praise of the people of the LORD, the name that is the truth about the entire universe is spoken on behalf of all the rest of creation.” Mays p. 445
“While the songs of praise generally push toward universality, Psalm 148 takes inclusivity to the limit, surpassing even the final climactic verse of the psalter (150:6). The inclusivity of the invitation to praise God has profound implications that demonstrate the inseparability of theology and ecology. We human beings, we people of God, are partners in praising God with a multitude of other living beings an inanimate things as well. For this reason, Psalm 148 recalls not only Gen 1:1-24, but also Genesis 9. In Genesis 9 the covenant after the flood is established not just with Noah and his descendants (Gen 9:9) but also with “every living creature” (Gen 9:10, 12, 15-16), indeed, with “the earth” (Gen 9:13). This covenant, along with the all-inclusive invitation to praise in Psalm 148, suggests that the human vocation of “dominion” (Gen 1:26,28) involves not just a stewardship of creation but a partnership with creation. Francis of Assisi had it right when, on the basis of Psalm 148, he composed his Canticle of the Sun, in which he addresses the sun and wind and fire as brother, and the moon and waters and earth as sister. Psalm 148 is not a call to pantheism, but on the basis of Psalm 148, we must speak of a “symbiosis in praise” involving humans and nature; we can hear in Psalm 148 “an implicit call to human beings to relate to the natural orders in such a way that natures praise might show forth with greater clarity.” In short, human beings are called to exercise their God-given “dominion” or sovereignty in the same way that God exercises power: as a servant. To so fulfill our vacation is to praise God by, in effect, imitating God.” NIB p. 722
This version of Canticle to the Sun is from Francis and Clare The Complete Works translated by Regis J. Armstrong, O.F.M. CAP. and Ignatius C. Brady, O.F.M. (pages 38-39)
- Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.
- To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your Name.
- Praise be You, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
- And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
- Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
- Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.
- Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
- Praise be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
- Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
- Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love and bear infinity and tribulation.
- Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
- Praise be You, my Lord through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.
- Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.
- Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.
“Several other hymns that proclaim God’s reign also invite heaven and earth and the beings and objects therein to praise God (see Pss 29:1; 96:11-12; 97:1; 98:4, 7-8). Indeed, the moment of Psalm 148 is similar to that of Psalm 29; the praise of heavenly beings (Pss 29:1-2,9; 148:2-4) is accompanied by a prayer for o the affirmation of God’s strengthening or blessing of God’s people (Pss 29:11; 148:14). The same movement is also found in Luke 2:13-14, where the heavenly beings proclaim both God’s glory and peace on earth. The angel’s song communicates Luke’s conviction that the birth of Jesus represents God’s enthronement, God’s cosmic sovereignty. Its parallel movement with Psalm 148 suggests the appropriateness of Psalm 148 for the season of Christmas.” NIB pp. 722-723
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.
Lewis, C. S. (2017). Reflections on the Psalms. Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
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.