Weekly Bible Devotional
“Everything Is Holy: Our Bodies”
July 4, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: Psalm 139:1-16
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
Notes on the Text:
The power of this psalm for us is looking at its historical context of suffering. When we read its words knowing what the people of ancient Israel were experiencing, we can appreciate the power of its affirmations about the goodness of life, especially the connection of our human flesh to God. The Psalms were written after the Exile experience of the people of ancient Israel. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 587 BCE and most of the people were expelled from their homeland to live in Babylon.
We tend to read the Psalms as individual prayers separated from each other. However, biblical scholars have discovered that we need to see that the book of Psalms is one book and read it much like we read Jeremiah or Isaiah. With this understanding we see the importance of the 5 sections of the book of Psalms. Each of these sections deals with the questions of Israel’s suffering: Book I (Psalm 1-41) mostly lament, Book II (Psalm 42-72) mixed Psalms, Book III (Psalm 73-89) which questions God faithfulness to Israel, Book IV (Psalm 90-106) which is a response saying that God has been faithful to Moses, and Book V (Psalm 107-150) which is another response saying that God is faithful. The first two Psalms in the book of Psalms define the whole problem of suffering in the world. They affirm that God will be on the side of the righteous, even though it may take a long time to get to that. The coming of the Messiah and the hope of redemption is never lost even when evil seems to prosper. This is what helped the people of Israel get through their tough times. They held on to the hope of God’s redemption. When we read Psalm 139 in its context of exile, pain, lament, and doubt, we can see that it is a prayer that mixes lament and trust. In verse 2 we hear some of the frustration of the writer of the Psalm saying that you discern my thoughts from far away. Normally in the biblical tradition, God is presented as knowing us closely. But here we have some distance that the Psalmist sees between the people of Israel and God. The whole Psalm is a reminder to God about God’s promise of faithfulness to the people of Israel. It is as if the Psalmist was saying, “We have had a good deal going together! Remember the promises you have made for us that you would never leave us alone. Remember that the faith we have in you that you are our creator and protector. We still trust in those promises. We are still here waiting for you to act. We are going through some tough times of darkness, but we know that in you there is no darkness. We are going to hold on because we trust you and have had a good thing going with you.” In Psalm 137, we hear about the people of Israel sitting by the rivers of Babylon and weeping and remembering their life as a people. The despair is so severe in that Psalm where God is seen as aloof. But in Psalm 139, the Psalmist moves to respond to that despair, still lamenting but from a place of hope and trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God.
One of the great experiences of faith is knowing that God is with us all the time in loving and gentle ways and in all the seasons of our lives. The challenge is to be aware of God’s presence with us. We live in the illusion that we are separate from God and from others. We sometimes even feel disconnected from ourselves. The main goal of faith is not to make you a moral person or a nicer person, even though these will be the results of faith. Faith is about becoming more aware of our connection to God and to others in the world.
One of the best vehicles for regaining or awakening to the awareness of God’s presence is our human body. A deep breath can help us feel centered. The scent of incense can help us remember the holy. Looking at beauty, whether it is an icon or a sunrise, can remind us to see into the realms of the eternal. A warm embrace of a baby or the holding of the hand of a loved one who is dying can give us that sense of deep connection and love. Hearing a beautiful piece of music, the sound of waves, or the song of a bird can transport us into new heights of love and gratitude. The taste of fresh fruit or a home-cooked meal remind us of the abundance of God’s creation. Our bodily senses help us reconnect to the source of our being. When we pray with the vehicle of the body, we know the depth of God’s presence in everlasting ways. As much as our bodies are frail, they are also holy because they enable us to experience God’s loving presence and our connection to others in so many amazing ways.
We are invited this week to look at the holy in our human bodies. They are amazing and frail at the same time. Yet, this is the mystery and beauty of life lies in the tension between the fragility and glory of our human experience. When we are able to live accepting that tension, we learn to see the holy even in our fragile human flesh.
By Macrina Wiederkehr
Oh God, you have created me and you know me, take away my fear of being known by you. Widen the doorway of my heart. You, who knit me together in my mother’s womb, continue loving me into new ways of being. Reveal to me the beauty and goodness of my life. Encourage me to focus on my positive qualities so they will have a chance to grow even stronger in the womb of my acceptance. Lay your hand on my heart when I am tempted to nest on the negative pieces of my life. O you who fashioned my life, if the truth be known, it is not you before whom I tremble in fear. I am not nearly so afraid of you knowing me as I am fearful of coming to know myself. Replace my fear with love. Replace my reluctance to love myself with acceptance of your love for me. I am grateful for your knowing presence in my life. May it grow stronger day by day! Amen.
Paraphrased by Nan Merrill
O my Beloved, You have searched me
and known me!
You know when I sit down and
when I rise up;
You discern my innermost thoughts.
You find me on the journey and
guide my steps;
You know my strengths and
Even before words rise up in prayer,
Lo, You have already heard
my heart call.
You encompass me with love where’er
and Your strength is my shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for me;
it is high: boundless gratitude
is my soul’s response.
Where could I go from your Spirit?
Or how could I flee from
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in darkness,
You are there!
If I soar on the wings of the morning
or dwell in the deepest parts of the sea,
Even there your Hand will lead me,
and your love will embrace me.
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light around me be night,”
Even darkness is not dark to You,
and the night dazzles as with the sun;
the darkness is as light with You.
You formed my inward being,
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for You are to be reverenced and adored.
Your mysteries fill me with wonder!
More than I know myself do You know me;
my essence was not hidden from You,
when I was being formed in secret,
intricately fashioned from the elements of the Earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance;
in your records were written
every one of them,
the days were numbered for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to me are your creations,
O Blessed One!
How vast the sum of them!
Who could count your innumerable
gifts and blessings?
At all times, You are with me.
O that You would vanquish my fears,
O that ignorance and suffering
would depart from me –
My ego separates me from true
to surrendering myself into
Yet are these not the very thorns that
focus my thoughts upon You?
I yearn to come to You in love,
to learn of your mercy and wisdom!
Search me, O my Beloved, and know
Try me and discern my thoughts!
Help me to face the darkness within me;
enlighten me, that I might radiate
your Love and Light!