I did a liturgy writing exercise with the Third Church session at the meeting prior to Lent that included reading psalms (sometimes in two translations), highlighting words that stick out, identify what could be used from the Psalm as call to worship or prayer of confession, and write phrases or prayers in your own words. It was challenging for some and fun for others.
If you want to try this, click on the link (my links show up as red words) for the Psalm above or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible. Read the Psalm slowly (silently). Read the Psalm aloud. If you are doing this with someone else, you could each read the Psalm aloud. I love hearing other people read scripture, the more variety of voices the better.
Here is a recording of Kurtis reading Psalm 102:
After you have read and/or listened: Ask what words/phrases stand out? What is this Psalm communicating? Take a few minutes to reflect and share your thoughts with another person or write your thoughts in a journal. Pray and wash your hands.
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing (I’ve recorded myself saying the prayer slow enough for hand washing).
So that you have an example for jotting down ideas here are the notes from the February Session meeting Psalm 102:
- Vs. 1 Lenny has an anthem on this phrase we’ve done. Purcell maybe?
- Vs. 26 Just talked about putting on robes
- Call to worship vs. 12-22
- Talking about an appointed time ties into lent- preparing the time (Easter)
- Moving forward, wanting to finish what I’ve started; realizing we will never get there. But God is there and will be there for all time.
- Redemption in your Savior
- Withering without your guidance and strength
- Praise in your name to those who gather to worship you
Psalm 102 is one of seven of the penitential psalms or individual laments (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These psalms start with a desperate prayer that is so passionate you can imagine the person wailing and angry crying. Then suddenly, the tone changes and there is certainty that God will bring deliverance; there is hope and joy. What I think is important to remember when reading these Psalms, especially Psalm 102 is that sickness/persecution/calamity isn’t a punishment and that health/safety/victory is not a reward for faith. It is tempting to think that sometimes, but it is poor theology that leads us to blame others for their plight or to feel that our sins are bigger than God’s love. In Psalm 102 it seems as though the author simply laments until tears run dry. Nothing is really solved or healed. Somehow the knowledge of God’s greatness is enough. Nothing is forever but the love of God. There is a shift in tone around verse 12 and I think that might be why someone identified that section as a possible call to worship. I like the idea of putting on and taking off robes or clothing someone highlighted about verse 26, that is the image I would play with if I was preaching on this text.
Individual lament might be like crying bitterly in a thunderstorm and stomping away too mad to remember your umbrella. Snot seeps from your nose and into you mouth again, and something in you clicks, you wipe your face with your sleeve (you forgot your umbrella in the rain, you definitely don’t have tissues with you) and find the nearest shelter you can stand under for a moment. By the time the storm relents, you have found strength somewhere deep inside you that was there all along but was hard to find with the storm raging in your head. Deep breath in. Hold. Slow controlled breath out. Hold. Repeat. Sometimes breathing can be prayer. Slow controlled breath in. You are God. Quick emptying breath out. I am not. Repeat. You are God. I am not. Repeat all the way home. Cold wet clothes are throw in the washer to suds away the snot and sadness. A warm shower, favorite sweat shirt, fluffy socks, lavender hand lotion and hot tea with honey has the power to bring back the dead, almost. Deep soothing breath. You are God. I am not. Your sweet golden retrievers lay at your feet, Deliverance and Silence, and together settle in for an afternoon nap.
Let us pray:
Holy God, you are enthroned forever. We know that you are forever, and we think that other establishments are too. If the stones from our sanctuary came tumbling down, we would pick them up from the dirt and cry. Look on our dusty and tear-streaked faces with pity. We forget that we do can not comprehend forever as you do. To you our establishments are ashes and snot on a garment that can be washed or tossed out when it is too worn to wear. Be with us as we mourn losing things you did not imagine would last forever. Let us rest in the comfort of your everlasting arms. Amen.
If this was fun (or if you are locked in with nothing else to do), you can do the same type of reflection for the other individual laments (6, 32, 38, 51, 130, and 143).
I would be happy to receive recordings of Psalm readings or prayers that you would like to offer for use in the blog and “worship like experiences” our congregation.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. God is God. Breath out. I am not. Breath in. God is with us. Breath out. We are not alone. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Wash your hands. 😉