Psalm 113 and the “-ologies”

hallelujah

 

This Psalm is a reflection on the name of God (Yahweh) which is rendered LORD in most modern translations.

 

First I notice the variations on the phrase “Praise the Lord” which are all variations on the word Hallelujah (“praise Yahweh”).

  • Praise the Lord (hallelu jah)
  • Praise  (him) the servants of the LORD (hallelu abedey yahweh)
  • Praise the name of the LORD (hallelu eth shem yahweh)
  • Let the name of the LORD be blessed (yahi shem yahweh mebarak)
  • Praise to the name of the LORD (mehulal shem yahweh)

This reminds me of musical compositions that take a theme and vary it through the piece, both in classical music and jazz.  It seems a kind of memditation by repetitive variation.

Then I notice contrasts in categories of time, space, people.  So I made this outline.

ps113

These show the LORDS praiseworthiness in regards to

  • time (now and forever)
  • location (place of sun rising and setting)
  • the nations
  • the heavens (which the Lord has to stoop down to even see)
  • classes of people (Poor, princes, childless woman, mother)

It’s a bit ironic that in the tradition of the text, we change the actual NAME of the LORD to the word “LORD” so as not to break the commandment against taking the LORD’s name in vain.

 

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A Holiday Meditation

mulledciderLast Sunday’s message followed the rubric RAMP. Read it here  Being Light

  • Read
  • Apprehend
  • Mull
  • Practice

In the “M” portion of this message we mull this over.  I use the word “mull” because that is what Meditate is in the Bible. In some forms of meditation, such as mindfulness mediation, the point is to empty our minds and be present without thinking. The Bible’s use of the word mediation is to think about God or the Word of God.  It is to “mull things over.”

Have you ever had mulled apple cider? Someone pours a bunch of cider into a pot, adds cinnamon sticks maybe orange peels and other spices and lets it simmer. We call that “Mulling.” In the process the spices work themselves into the cider and the result is delicious.

That is Biblical mediation. You are the cider and the word of God is the cinnamon sticks and orange peel. You need to apply time and thought so that the word of God works itself into your thinking. From there it works into your living.  It becomes part of you and determines how you live.

 

Meditation – minding my mindfulness

what I was thinking about during the mindfulness lecture.

what I was thinking about during the mindfulness lecture.

I was just at a lecture on mindfulness meditation. That form of meditation is built upon Buddhist teaching. Its goal is to quiet the mind so that it is not thinking about anything at all, but is at rest. The presenter defined it as “being fully present in the moment.”

This can be a good exercise for a Christian as well. I remember when I was in college and I used to go and sit in the church sanctuary that was near campus. After a half hour of sitting and resting my mind and my ears, I was in a much calmer frame of mind. Sometimes I take a walk outside and enjoy the world that God has made.

Meditation as described in scripture is something different. Rather than clearing the mind, it seeks to fill the mind. Rather than emptying the mind, it seeks to fill it with the scriptures. And rather than being a thing I do alone, it is something I do in fellowship with God. We do not meditate about God, we can meditate with God.
We are out of shape. We are out of practice. Many of us do not know how to do biblical meditation.

There was a study reported in the news. Three fourths of men and 1 third of women in the study could not even tolerate 15 minutes of silence without a book a radio or the internet. When given a chance to think about nothing or receive a small electrical shock, they chose to be shocked! We have so much outer life, that we neglect the inner life.

I sometimes preach a sermon in the form of a congregational meditation. It takes this shape.

Read the verse repeatedly.
Observe each word and phrase.
Connect the verse to your world.
Commit yourself to obedience.

Croutons – Your daily bread in small pieces

CroutonsInBowlWe are practicing the art of meditation on the scriptures (Psalm 1) by taking the passage found in Romans 12:9-21 and breading it into small pieces, or “croutons” for the month of October. This is the content of the Adult Class at Bethany this month, but you are welcome to joint in by downloading the Croutons worksheet – CROUTONS.book

Romans 12 is a passage of application after the previous 11 chapters of Romans has presented the Gospel of Jesus from a variety of angles.  The chapter begins by saying “I appeal to you, by the mercies of God [Romans 1-11] to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”  And so we present our minds and hearts to the Lord by taking care each day to listen to, to chew over (the biblical meaning of the word “meditate”) and follow the Lord’s instructions.

At the rapid pace of 13 verses in 31 days, we will take a crouton a day to think on.

Here is my suggestion on how to proceed (excerpted from the worksheet).

Daily Crouton: 

  • Read just the portion listed for that day.  Go somewhere where you can say it out loud a few times.
  • Think about each word in turn, for example, on day 1, “Love” what is it?  “Must” – this is not a suggestion.  “Be” as opposed to pretending.  “Sincere” means real and not mere outward correctness.
  • Ask yourself some questions: Who can I love?  With whom is my love not sincere?
  • Pray from the words, “Lord, forgive me for falling short.  Give me a more sincere love, especially for ____________  who is so annoying…..”
  • Be silent and see if the Spirit of God brings something to your mind as you think about the words.
  • Make notes to remember what you heard from the Lord.

Two Approaches to Romans 12:9-21

logoRomans 12 from verses 9 to 21 contains a large number of short admonitions.  The challenge is how to present these without getting lost in the details.  This past week I presented them by summarizing the first portion as advice for how to treat each other inside the circle of the fellowship.  There was a second sentence for the verses that had to do with treating outsiders.

That is one approach.  The next one would be to divide the section into daily phrases.  Perhaps this could be meditated on a phrase a day – it divides nicely into 31 distinct phrases.  I’d hate to only ever lean the summary.  Both appraches have merit.

Here is the text.  The backslashes (/) indicated daily reflection portions.

Romans 12:9-21 NIV

Love must be sincere./ Hate what is evil;/ cling to what is good. /10 Be devoted to one another in love/. Honor one another above yourselves./ 11 Never be lacking in zeal, /but keep your spiritual fervor,/ serving the Lord./ 12 Be joyful in hope, /patient in affliction,/ faithful in prayer./ 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need./ Practice hospitality./

14 Bless those who persecute you; /bless and do not curse. /15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; /mourn with those who mourn./ 16 Live in harmony with one another./ Do not be proud,/ but be willing to associate with people of low position./ Do not be conceited./

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil./ Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone./18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone./ 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,/ for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord./ 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;/
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink./
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”/

21 Do not be overcome by evil,/ but overcome evil with good./

Here are the summary Sentences

     Inner Circle – v.9-13

Choose what is good

    •             by clinging to the love of God,
    •             by praying through trouble and
    •             by sharing what you have.

Outer Circle – v. 14-21

 Bless others

    •             by living at peace with everyone
    •             by fighting evil with goodness and
    •             by trusting the justice to God.

 

 

Active Meditation – a personal note

When we talk of meditation, the mental picture is of quiet detachment.  Well, that does not work for me.  I am not critical of a more monastic approach, but it is not the only way to think extensively, deeply and connectedly about the word.  So here are a few ideas that I have used over the years.

Sit in church.  I used to sit in the sanctuary of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, when I was a student at the U of Washington.  Once I got in this space I would sit and let my mind go to wherever it wanted to go.  I would stay there until the ringing sound of city noise had subsided.  This is the effect of living in a city like Seattle (or Chicago, New York or Madison), where there is a sort of hum residing after you are away from the noise.  This took about 15 minutes usually. Then when I re-entered the world, I was surprised at how loud and busy it was (a state I had been part of merely 20 minutes before.)

Chop wood.  Three of us lived in Montana in an apartment heated by wood, and so we had to chop firewood.  There were times when I could not sit and think or pray, so I would “pray with my axe.”  This was a very therapeutic way to think about frustrations.  I also discovered that wood flies apart when you chop it at sub-zero temperatures – if the axe does not bounce off the surface, that is.

Carve wood.  I like to go to the “man cave” and work on a carving project, the best for this is something of my own design, which has no particular deadline attached to it.  Being active with a physical craft (maybe you paint or play guitar, knit or quilt) frees up the conscious and subconscious to have little conversations about life and the sermon text.

Take a walk – basically the same idea as above.

Take the sermon text to the gym – there is nothing more boring than exercise, so often I will print out the text and look at it while I am grinding out my 3-5 cyber miles on the exercise bike.

Write creatively.  I find a little free verse poetry, free association, brain storming on paper with words and images or telling a story is another outlet.

Listen to Jazz – I have some music on my work computer – and anything that is jazzy, and that is either without words, or is in another language, is helpful.  sometimes classical music, for me Baroque is good, or instrumental versions of hymns are also good.  In Advent, I usually give Handel’s Messiah a spin.

Here is the bottom line, what does not work is to sit and stare at a piece of paper for hours on end.  when I get to the end of the usefulness of that method, it is time to try something else.

Oh, finally, Blog.  One reason for Fresh Read is to talk about the scriptures in a non-churchy way toward a fresh view of the text.  The other is to think with the keyboard.

There you have it – a combination of advice and confession.