Psalm 141 (Psalms on the Trail)

"Let my prayer rise before you as incense; the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Psalm 141:2

“Let my prayer rise before you as incense;

the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2

 Not far from my home, the Appalachian Trail skirts a corner of this lake.  There’s a bench here.  When I sit down and see mist rising, I think of this verse: “Let my prayer rise before you as incense.”

These words are sung in our Lutheran evening prayer and I know several musical settings of it.  So when I hear these words now, I hear the singing in my head—not just me singing, but communities of people gathered around:  the women’s retreat in candlelight,  my congregation on a cold Lenten evening, a boisterous gathering of clergy at a camp, people from around the continent surrounded by huge trees in the mountains of Washington State.  In fact, it is at at the latter site, Holden Village, where one of the most beautiful (for me) settings of this Psalm was born.

Not only does this verse call to mind singing and faith communities, but it heralds a releasing of all the intensities and anxieties after a busy day of work, study, laughter, even play and hiking—and usually after a good community meal as well.  We sing this psalm sitting—on a bench, a pew, a chair, a log.  Our bodies are winding down and growing tired.  Depending on the season it is either dark outside or the sun is angling down into its golden phase.  Lifting up our hands with all the cares of the day would certainly be a wonderfully appropriate gesture to God—it’s just that we Lutherans have an aversion to being too demonstrative in worship. Nevertheless, peace begins to settle in between the words of this verse and into our laps as we pray and sing.

It is a hallowed time—this coming together of music, community and peace led by the lifted hands and rising incense of an ancient psalmist.  It is a spacious time where our hearts are redirected to their spiritual home.  Yes, singing this verse is like coming home.

Looking back down the valley to Holden Village, the home of "Holden Evening Prayer" by Marty Haugen

Looking back down the valley to Holden Village, the home of “Holden Evening Prayer” by Marty Haugen

Suggestions:

1. Read the verse and reflect on its meaning for you.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

2. Read all of Psalm 141 and see how this verse fits into the whole.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this psalm’s meaning for you.

The next post will be on Psalm 142.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting an (almost) daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at http://elainedent.net or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.