All That Has Breath

Scripture Focus: Psalm 150.1-6
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; 
praise him in his mighty heavens. 
2 Praise him for his acts of power; 
praise him for his surpassing greatness. 
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, 
praise him with the harp and lyre, 
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, 
praise him with the strings and pipe, 
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, 
praise him with resounding cymbals. 
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
Praise the Lord.

Reflection: All That Has Breath
By John Tillman

Jesus referred to the scripture as, “the law, the prophets, and the psalms” (Luke 24.44) and taught that all scripture was centered on him. Psalms contains many prophecies about Christ and it closes with praise that is due to him in a repetitive, poetic crescendo. 

R.E.O. White (in the Evangelical Commentary) compares Psalm 150’s repetition to the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah, by George Frideric Handel. It is an apt comparison. The chorus repeats, on one note, “King of Kings…and Lord of Lords.” Then answering voices call back energetically, “Hallelujah” and “forever and ever.” This repetition rises, note after note, chord after chord, higher and higher until it seems it can go no farther.

In Psalm 150, more and more instruments and individuals are commanded to join in praise. Imagine the building sound as you read…First trumpets of ram’s horn. Then plucked instruments such as lyres and harps. Next, drums and percussive instruments accompanied by dancers, perhaps stomping out the same rhythm. Next are more stringed instruments as well as flutes or pipes. Then, finally, clashing and resounding cymbals make their entrance.

“Hallelujah” concludes the second of three sections of Messiah. Charles Jennens, who wrote the libretto, titled the section “God’s Triumph.” Jennens specifically wrote Messiah to confront a rising trend of deism that denied Jesus’ divinity. The actual conclusion of Messiah is a section with text from Revelation, titled “Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain.”

Messiah is often performed at Christmas, but its message suits Easter better. It takes pains to present what Christ taught the Emmaus-bound disciples, “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24.26)

Let us celebrate Jesus’ triumph through his crucifixion and resurrection. Like the Emmaus disciples, Jesus is revealed to us in scripture. Are not our hearts burning within us? (Luke 24.32

Let everything that has breath praise the one who surrendered his breath on the cross, yet lives and breathes again. May he breathe on us. (John 20.22) May his Holy Spirit lift us to our feet in praise to dance, sing, play, and serve our communities and our world.

Let there be praise.
In the sanctuary, in the heavens, let there be praise. 
For his power, for his greatness, let there be praise. 
With every instrument of word, deed, music, art, dancing, speech, writing, and labor, let there be praise.

Music: Handel’s ‘Hallelujah!’ Chorus live at the Sydney Opera House; Full performance of Messiah: Handel’s Messiah Live from the Sydney Opera House

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life. — Psalm 119.49-50

Today’s Readings

Joel 1Listen – 1:39)
Psalm 149-150(Listen -1:36)

Read more about Jesus Concealed and Revealed
Disciples don’t always seem to recognize the resurrected Jesus. Do we?

Read more about Unprecedented
In response to unprecedented times, Joel encourages…unprecedented prayer and repentance

The Broken Power of Death

Scripture Focus: Hosea 13.14
14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; 
I will redeem them from death. 
Where, O death, are your plagues? 
Where, O grave, is your destruction? 

Psalm 146.3-5
3 Do not put your trust in princes, 
in human beings, who cannot save. 
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; 
on that very day their plans come to nothing. 
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the Lord their God. 

Isaiah 25.8
8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. 

1 Corinthians 15.54-56
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 

     55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
         Where, O death, is your sting?” 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Broken Power of Death

By John Tillman

Hosea and Isaiah’s ministries overlapped and their writing echoes each other. Paul paraphrases their promises of resurrection into one of his brightest, most hopeful refrains. This chorus of hope comes most directly from one of the darkest chapters of Hosea.Rather than rely upon God, Israel and Judah had turned to political alliances and the gods those allies worshiped. But these “princes” would soon commit atrocities. These sound eerily familiar to ones committed by today’s powerful countries who bomb maternity wards and civilian evacuation corridors.

Death is not only dispensed at the whim of greedy empires but is carried on the wings of disease and aging. What hope can we have against death? This question is common to the people of Israel and Judah in Isaiah and Hosea’s day, to downtrodden outcasts under Rome’s rule, and to those targeted by empires and dictators today.

The poor and the powerless are overrun by death. They have no defenses and little strength to resist or slow its advance. They are helpless.

Wealth and power do much to extend life. The wealthy can easily flee conflict and the powerful are welcomed to new countries rather than crammed into inhumane camps. Experimental and expensive life-saving and life-extending medical treatments are common among the powerful. Absent these extreme examples, even simple, quality of life differences add years to the lives of the wealthy. However, in the end, the rich, the powerful, and the poor all die. The teacher of Ecclesiastes would call these efforts meaningless or absurd. (Ecclesiastes 3:19)

To the unbelieving world, for whom mortal life is all there is, death is ultimate. It is the worst thing that can happen to a person and there is no remedy.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen to us and it does not have the final word in our lives but that does not mean we should not grieve it. Lazarus was only four days in the grave, yet Jesus wept. (John 11.35) We weep and mourn death, but not without hope. (1 Thessalonians 4.13)

While we flee or delay death, scripture describes death’s defeat. God promises the grave will not be our final destination. We will only pass through and when we leave, we will be led by Christ himself. For those in Christ, death is a toothless predator, a limbless wrestler, who cannot hold us down for long.

Death which swallows all, will be swallowed up.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Short Verse
“I am the Alpha and the Omega” says the Lord God, “who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” — Revelation 1.8

Today’s Readings
Hosea 13  Listen – 2:26)
Psalm 146-147  (Listen -3:09)

Read more about Too Much to Hold
In Christ, we’re made to be like him
Too much for Death to hold
Grasped by him for a moment
But he cannot hold our souls

Read more about Stealing Death’s Sting
Untie our grave clothes and strip us of the trappings of this world.
Let us walk into the light and follow your loving voice.

Daughters of Saul and Sons of Moses

Scripture Focus: Psalm 145.1-4
1 I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
2 Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
4 One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.

1 Chronicles 15.29
29 As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.

Luke 19.39-40
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Reflection: Daughters of Saul and Sons of Moses
By John Tillman

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we celebrated Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem and the week leading to the crucifixion and resurrection. (Matthew 21.1–11; Mark 11.1–11; Luke 19.28–44; John 12.12–19)

Like David’s procession of the Ark of the Covenant entering Jerusalem, Jesus’ processional was met by a joyous crowd. In both cases, there were those who wanted to steal the joy of the moment.

Michal, daughter of Saul and wife of David, critiqued the celebration. (1 Chronicles 15.29) She claimed to be concerned about propriety and modesty, but David’s response implied that her moralizing concealed a concern about power. (2 Samuel 6.20-23) The daughter of Saul despised this lowly king.

Likewise, religious leaders objected to crowds singing about Jesus “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25,26) They publicly voiced concerns about blasphemy but privately they were concerned about power. They didn’t want to upset Rome. (John 11.48) The sons of Moses despised this lowly teacher.

Psalm 105
is the Psalm listed in Chronicles as one David (or Asaph at David’s direction) sang on the occasion of the Ark’s entry. (1 Chronicles 16.7-11) However, despite Psalm 145 not having a date or event attached, one could certainly imagine its celebratory tone going well with the procession David led or the procession of Jesus the Son of David.

Those traveling up to Jerusalem would sing psalms on their ascent, preparing for and celebrating being in the presence of God. We can pray and sing these psalms with the same sense of anticipation. Jesus comes to us as he came to Jerusalem, humble and lowly. We can welcome him with shouts, cries, and joyous abandon that some will not understand.

Welcome him this week and every week as the only rightful king of our hearts. We must depose our affection for other Saul-like kings. We must abandon vestiges of religion which grasp at power rather than righteousness.

Do not let daughters of Saul or sons of Moses steal your joy in the lowly king, the humble teacher. Let us exalt him with pure praise and abandon. Let us ensure the next generation joins in with us.

“I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.”

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
…They cried out: “Blessed is he who is coming as King in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!” Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Master, reprove your disciples,” but he answered, “I tell you, if these keep silence, the stones will cry out.” — Luke 19.37-40


Today’s Readings
Hosea 12  Listen – 1:51)
Psalm 145  (Listen -2:19)

Read more about A Way Back for Strivers
If we wrestle with you God, you will bless…If we will return to you, God, you will heal

Read more On Psalm 145: Praying as Music
If music is a universal language, prayer can be similarly described.

Prayer for Times of Crisis—Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Psalm 89.46-49
46 How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? 
How long will your wrath burn like fire? 
47 Remember how fleeting is my life. 
For what futility you have created all humanity! 
48 Who can live and not see death, 
or who can escape the power of the grave? 
49 Lord, where is your former great love, 
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?

From John: As we continue in many kinds of crises, we repeat this prayer from 2020. In every kind of crisis, we can rely upon God for mercy and justice.

Reflection: A Prayer for Times of Crisis—Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Perhaps Psalm 89 was written by the same “Ethan the Ezrahite” who was a contemporary of David. Or perhaps it was written later by a contemporary of Ezekiel and other exiles. Regardless of when it was written, it shows us a helpful, repeatable pattern of prayer for those in suffering, doubt, frustration, or crisis.

The psalm contains three distinct movements of thought. In the first section, the psalmist praises the power of God over the cosmos. From the highest court of the heavens, he rules over things seen and unseen.

In the second movement, the writer describes God’s vision and purpose for humanity. The Lord promises an intimate, fatherly, guiding relationship. David stands in as a symbol for both the nation of Israel and for the role of Jesus who will be the “Son of David” to whom those longing for deliverance will call. (Mark 10.46-52)

In the third, the writer laments the sin of his people and that God seems to be abandoning them to suffering and allowing his purposes for them to fail. Despite this lament, or perhaps because of it, the writer ends with a challenging view of hope. The psalmist trusts that God will save, that wrongs will be forgiven, and justice will be done. 

A Prayer for Times of Crisis — Guided Prayer

Praise God for who he is and acknowledge him as the king and creator of all. He is more than just the source of all life but the source of all joy, love, and justice.

Review for yourself the assurances we have in his promises to us. That we will be made like him. That we will suffer, but with him and in his power. That we will be forgiven. That we will be his images, his sons and daughters, representing him.

Express to him your doubts and fears. Tell him what you don’t believe and ask him to help you believe. (Mark 9.23-24) Tell him how you feel without fear of rejection. Tell him what you fear without being shamed.

Praise him that he is the Lord, forever. Eternal life is not just in the future. It is now. Abundant life is not just pie in the sky. He is with us now. Praise him that he is with us forever.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness be my comfort, as you have promised to you servant.
Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.76-77

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 23 (Listen – 3:39)
Psalm 89 (Listen – 5:29)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 24 (Listen – 3:47), Psalm 90 (Listen – 2:03)
Proverbs 25 (Listen – 2:56), Psalm 91 (Listen – 1:39)

Read more about Peace in Crisis
Today, we focus on the comfort and peace that we have from God in disturbing and difficult times.

Read more about The Hope of Lament
Biblical lament is not expressing a gripe or complaint. Complaining arises from a mindset of scarcity…lament is anchored in the confidence of God’s abundant goodness.

State of Our Souls

Scripture Focus: Psalm 86.11-13
11 Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
    you have delivered me from the depths,
    from the realm of the dead.

Reflection: State of Our Souls
By Erin Newton

Once again, these are unprecedented times. We have been jarred emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We need an anchor. There are times that we typically set aside to refocus our lives and assess any shortcomings. We see this in the state of the union, new year resolutions, or annual work performance reviews. In the same way, the church has often used the liturgical calendar to mark Ash Wednesday as a day of reflection and prayer.

The early church often held baptisms only once a year and the period between Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday was meant to be a time when solemn reflection was made. Time to think about salvation. Time to ponder the depths of the sacrifice of Christ. Time to resolutely commit to the lordship of Jesus.

Reflecting on the work of Christ in our lives is something we must repeat. Remembering our need for salvation, confessing our sin, and rejoicing in the grace of God is an anchor in these storm-tossed waves of life.

Psalm 86 is a wonderful hymn to pray for this purpose. The verses guide us. We acknowledge our need for God’s help. Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Our resources are shrinking; our mental and emotional capacity to endure wains. We need our Lord to intervene.

We must remind ourselves that we do not trust in an empty god as other nations do. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. We anchor our souls in no false hope or pseudo-savior. We know that Christ alone is Lord.

We meditate on the character of God. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you… But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. We need to remember his goodness and love for us. Our world is always angry and hateful, but he abounds in love and is slow to anger.

So, with this, we recenter our hearts and minds on him. As we move toward the solemn remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ and his joyous resurrection, we recommit our lives. We pray for an undivided heart. No person, cause, or ideology should vie for the supremacy of Christ in our lives. Take this time to remember the anchor of our souls.  

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nations. — Psalm 108.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 21 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 86-87 (Listen – 2:26)

Read more about The Church’s One Foundation — Lenten Hymns
“The Church’s One Foundation” is Stone’s attempt to expound upon article nine of the Apostle’s Creed.

Read more about Examine the Examen
The simplest, shortest way to summarize the Examen may be the following five words: Awareness, Analysis, Admission, Acceptance, Anticipation.