Psalms | Slow reading | Consider the sky

In which we introduce the idea of a sacrament, and describe a prayer exercise.

In Christian understanding, God is immanent. This means that, while God cannot be contained by anything, yet God is present in all things. In other words, creation is a sacrament: a sign of God’s presence which has an effect.

What does this mean? Well, Scripture is a sacrament. This means that, when we open our hearts to Scripture, God is free to speak through the Word: healing, guiding, loving, forgiving, challenging or changing our hearts. Communion (aka the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist, Mass) is a sacrament, because Christ promises to be present when we gather in His name over bread and wine; and when we eat and drink together, we are brought into union with his body: the church.

Similarly, creation is a sacrament which, if we approach it with awe, wonder and open hearts, grants us Wisdom: that deep way of knowing in which Spirit guides heart and mind, and shows us how to live. We can open ourselves to this gift of Wisdom by creating a prayerful dialogue between two sacraments: the Bible and creation. What follows is one way to do this.

Step One: Prepare: Take your Bible, and perhaps a journal, and go to a place where you have a clear view of the sky. Make yourself comfortable. Slow your breath. Spend some time oberving the sights, sounds and smells around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.

Step Two: Read Psalm 19: “The sky tells the glory of God, tells the genius of God’s work …” Read the whole Psalm through several times, aloud if possible. Let the words of the Psalm soak into you; sense what the text is saying. What stands out? What surprises you? Intrigues you? Delights you? Bores you? What makes you feel angry or sad? What are you reminded of? Tell God about this.

Step Three: Now ‘read’ the sky: Turn your attention back to your surroundings. What stands out? What do you see, smell, or hear in the sky? What do you feel? A cool breeze? A trickle of sweat? How does your body rest in this space? What surprises you? Intrigues you? Delights you? Bores you? What makes you feel angry or sad? What are you reminded of? Tell God about this.

Step Four: Dialogue: Now let the sky and the Psalm dialogue with and interpret each other. How does the Psalm illuminate or change how you read the sky? How does the sky illuminate or change how you read Psalm? How do they illuminate or change your image of God?

Step Five: Respond: Has any other passage, story, phrase or image from Scripture bubbled up? Do you have any sense of an invitation from God? If so, is there some resolution or promise you would like to make?

Step Six: Rest and enjoy: When you feel ‘done’, rest awhile. Enjoy the sky, the world, the Word and God’s presence. Close with a word or gesture of thanks to God: perhaps a simple bow to the sky, acknowledging God’s presence in it.

Of course, Psalm 19 is not the only passage for this sort of prayer exercise. There are dozens of texts which you could carry into the wild for prayer and reflection. If you would like some further suggestions (waters, trees, animals, storms, ants, etc.), let me know: perhaps we could make lectio divina with creation a semi-regular email topic.


Emailed to Sanctuary 11 September 2019 © Sanctuary, 2019. Adapting suggestions by Sam Hamilton-Poore, found here and here. Image credit: Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash.

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