This series is exploding the Psalms in year D. Here are the other blog links: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 102; 1st Sunday in Lent: Psalm 6; 2nd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 143; 3rd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 38; 4th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 39; 5th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 101; 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35.
Word, Share, Prayer: Read the scripture, share what you heard (with someone or in a journal) and then pray. Simple. Meaningful. Get a wordier description from by Psalm 6 blog post.
Liturgy writing exercise: Similar to ‘word, share, prayer’ but what makes this a little different is that the intention is to have something ready for worship. I mentioned in the Psalm 102 blog that I did a liturgy writing exercise with the Third Church Session in February 2020. We didn’t have time to do a lot of editing but maybe you do. Edit until you like what you have. Don’t forget to read it aloud.
Lectio Divina (Divine Reading): This one is difficult for me. No writing. No analyzing. Just a calm state of mind, reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. You can listen to an example in my Psalm 143 blog.
Gratitude exercise: Share three things you are grateful for with someone else and listen to what they are grateful for. Just doing this simple exercise can help to change your attitude about your current situation. Or, keep a gratitude journal, so that when you’re not feeling it you can go back and read what you’re grateful for. These practices can shape the way we think as we begin to train our minds to be grateful. I share more examples in the blog for Psalm 101.
Self-care: You can not take care of others if you do not take care of yourself. For me, this means lighting a lavender candle to sooth my nerves during a long day. I keep hand lotion and cuticle oil on my desk so when I am tempted to pick (or I should say, when I’m aware of the temptation) I moisturize instead. One of the small griefs I’ve experienced during isolation is my relationship with my nail lady. Rosa praises me when I’ve not picked and points out when I need to do a better job. She does it so gently too! Her noticing my hands motivates me to do better or to contact my therapist (my hands are my ‘tell’ for stress I need to talk through). But often, when I think of self-care I also need to include things that aren’t “pampering” me but protecting me. Sometimes, self-care means not watching the national news because its too overwhelming. Other times, self-care means not going to every meeting I’m invited too (and not going to every argument I’m invited to). Self-care also means that I don’t have to feel everyone’s pain or solve everyone’s problems; or at the very least, I can feel someone’s pain/sorrow/loss but then I have to let it go when I’m done talking to them; and that’s ok. Self-care means keeping regular appointments with therapists and doctors, attending clergy support groups, and having lunch with friends. Self-care means cultivating relationships that are important. Self-care means to be realistic about what’s happening but not loosing hope. Self-care means spending time with the divine; the one who loves me most.
Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to Psalm 94:
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
Hymn “This is my Father’s World” – And though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet
“The purpose of the psalm is to encourage the people of God to trust in God’s righteous judgement and to give them a prayer to appeal to God to vindicate God’s rule.” James L. Mays Interpretation Psalms p. 302
“The background of the theological use of “avenge/vengeance” in Israel is not in the emotion of a hate reaction but in the sphere of legal custom. “Vengeance” was an act to enforce or restore justice where the regular legal processes were not competent or had failed.” James L. Mays Interpretation Psalms pp. 302-303
“God’s reign is proclaimed amid circumstances that seem to deny it, and the reader is thus called to decision–either to choose he self-assertion of the wicked or to find happiness (vs. 12) and consolation (v. 19) and refuge (v. 22) in God.” New Interpreters Bible Commentary Psalms 2015 edition, p. 568
“So Psalm 94 can perhaps seres as a model for contemporary pastors, who are called upon not to deny appearances (vv. 3-7) or to acquiesce with institutionalized oppression (vv. 20-21), but to find ways of honestly encouraging and supporting God’s people.” New Interpreters Bible Commentary Psalms 2015 edition, p. 568
“In a world of oppression and institutionalized evil, to preach the judgment and vengeance of God is to profess our hope and our conviction that God rules the world and that “justice will return” (v. 15)”. New Interpreters Bible Commentary Psalms 2015 edition, p. 568
Covid-19 is not God’s vengeance on this world. God is love. Making people sick is not loving. When Psalm 94 speaks of God’s vengeance, it doesn’t mean God has had it and in an angry fit decided to destroy everything (I don’t like the CEV’s translation here). I know it can sometimes feel that way and it’s ok to talk to God about how you’re feeling (even when what you are feeling is mad at God).
When “the wrong” feels stronger than us, God knows what that feels like too. As Christians, we believe in an incarnate God; a God who decided to be born in this world, to live among us, to love us, to teach us how to pray, to suffer as we do, and to die. God became flesh and dwelt among us in this messy, beautiful, terrifying, wonderful experience we understand as humanity. And we believe that God is still with us, even now. We believe that there is nothing that God can not redeem (or work out for good or bring justice to).
When the Psalmist is crying out for God to have vengeance what he/she is really asking for is for God to bring about justice. And because God is with us, we have the opportunity to participate in bringing justice. In this strange time we are in, justice might look like taking care of our neighbor by giving them a few rolls of toilet paper and asking if they need anything else from the store. Justice might look like making phone calls, setting up zoom meetings, and otherwise reminding neighbors that we are not alone. Justice might look like paying neighbors that can not work because the buildings they work in are closed. Justice means everyone has what they need to be well, financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Love motivates us to work for justice. Love reminds us of our common humanity and allows us to see our neighbor as just like us. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a).
Let us pray:
It is ok to grieve. It is ok to feel sad. It is ok to feel angry and upset. Certainly, being sick feels like a punishment, and being socially isolated feels like being in “time out”. And it is certainly good to lift these feelings up to God or place them at the foot of the cross or cry them into the divine mother’s arms. Choose your own favorite prayer metaphor. Once you have in mind where your prayers are going, start your prayers by telling God exactly how you feel in your most honest and authentic voice. Be still for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself about other times you have felt this way. Think about how you got through those times. Talk to God about those experiences. Find strength in those memories. Ask God for what you need in this moment to get through. And end your time in the divine presence with gratitude.
If this was fun (or if you are staying in with nothing else to do), you can do the same type of reflection for the other psalms.
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. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Wash your hands. 😉