This series is exploring 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. So, take care of you, financially, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For more on how I understand self-care, check out my Psalm 94 blog post. Reflecting on Psalm 35, I might say, do whatever it is that restores shalom.
Remember when you 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.
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 35:
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
“The enemies are the strong; the petitioner is the lowly one; it is up to the LORD to intervene to restore the right (mishpat) of the petitioner (v.23)”. James L. Mays, Psalms Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching p. 155
“The adversaries have destroyed the shalom of the petitioner, that wholeness of self with others and God which belongs to the good and normal state of life.” James L. Mays, Psalms Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching p. 155
“Shalom is the comprehensive term for the theological, social, and personal well-being given by creation and blessing and restored by salvation. It is the wholeness, goodness, and integrity of relational existence to God, self, and others.” James L. Mays, Psalms Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching p.34
“…Psalm 35 has remained a resource for sufferers throughout the generations, serving both as a prayer for help and a testimony to God’s character.” New Interpreters Bible Commentary Vol. 3 2015 edition, p. 401
“While Psalm 35 is testimony to God’s character and activity, it also teaches about suffering and the life of faith. It is easy to imagine Psalm 35 as the prayer of Elijah or Jeremiah or Job or Jesus (see John 15:25), all of whom were hated without cause, all of whom were pursued by their enemies, all of whom suffered on account of their righteousness and faithfulness to God. Clearly, suffering in these cases cannot be understood as punishment. If anything, suffering must be understood as the inevitable cost of discipleship. In this regard, then, Psalm 35 offers us a model of discipleship and invites our decision. Are we willing, like the psalmist and like Jesus, to humble ourselves in identification with the affliction of others (v.13)? Are we willing, like the psalmist and like Jesus, to entrust our lives to God, praying all the while, “Thy will be done… deliver us from evil?” New Interpreters Bible Commentary Vol. 3 2015 edition, p. 403
(Communion Meditation, I’m planning to use this as a base for my Palm Sunday worship service)
“Shalom is the comprehensive term for the theological, social, and personal well-being given by creation and blessing and restored by salvation. It is the wholeness, goodness, and integrity of relational existence to God, self, and others.” (James L. Mays, Psalms Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching p.34)
Has Shalom has been destroyed? Maybe, or at least what we thought of as Shalom.
I imagine we are feeling something different this holy week; maybe, something more… biblical. You see, on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem in what I used to imagine as a parade. Now I see it as a set up to a cruel joke. The shouts of, “Hosanna” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” seemed to be coming from every person, creature, and rock along the path. And at the same time, those who saw that he was changing the world, sought to take his life. They didn’t want their version of shalom to be disrupted. This man who overturned the money changers tables at the temple could certainly over through their comfortable way of life with his radical love for the poor, the weak, the oppressed. We are comfortable in a world in which everyone knows their place, their pecking order, the value of their life in relation to those around them, but this is not the kind of world God had in mind for us. Our system is sick. It is the same system that killed Jesus, love incarnate. Jesus died for our corporate sins a long time ago, and if he came back today our sin sick world would still crucify him.
This procession of Palms is the turning point. Something has to give way. And the “wrong” the “status quo” and “the way things are supposed to be” were upset by Jesus, and they are powerful. And the powerful do not go down without a fight. The disciples didn’t realize that until Thursday evening, when Jesus was arrested. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. They watched as Judas, surrounded by soldiers, was the last to kiss Jesus goodbye. And they scattered. I image some were afraid to be too close to Jesus, keeping their distance but watching to see what happened. Others went home to hide and cry. And I wonder if one of them went back to the road to look at the palms scattered on the ground; dusty and torn. The scene has lost its splendor, but the remnants remind us that it did happen. He picks up a tattered piece of palm, pats the top of a rock that isn’t singing anymore, and looks at the city. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the place that kills prophets. He puts a small piece of palm into his pocket so he doesn’t forget Sunday’s parade, the way the wine tasted tonight, and this moment when the rocks and stones forgot to sing.
The rest of Holy week is filled with unspeakable horrors. It seems as though suffering and death has won this time. The women witness it all. And when they see where Jesus’ body is laid, they go back home for sabbath rest. We don’t have a record of what happened Friday evening and Saturday. What we do know is that this was supposed to be a time of rest and prayer; a time to be together with family, friends, and the all of the faithful. This weekend, perhaps there are more tears than prayers. A disciple reaches to find something to wipe the snot from his nose, and discovers a dirty, tattered bit of palm. Something stirs inside him, his bones know something that his mouth can hardly utter, “No one is like the LORD.” (Psalm 35:10).
God doesn’t fight the same way the powerful forces of evil do.
Philippians 2:1–12 “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Social isolation communion:
As I break bread today, I invite everyone to break their bread together, and as I pour my beverage, I invite you to do the same if you have not already done so. As eat bread and I drink from the cup, please do the same. Remembering that we are united us as a people who are grateful for all we have and share in that abundance, let us not be afraid of the future, but instead be aware of the divine indwelling, inviting us to be at ease about what is to come as we joyfully step into the unknown.
Let us pray:
God of life, you created the world and saw that it was good. Yet, because of our greed and consumption, we cut down jungles, we eliminate plants and animals. We are destroying the earth. We pray for wisdom and strength. Empower us by your Spirit to restore life for the dying creatures. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of justice, you command us to establish justice for all. Yet, because of our self-centeredness and indifference, we let the gap between the rich and the poor widen; we do not have legal protection for migrant workers; we ignore children living on the street; we feel helpless seeing young women and men trapped by human trafficking. We pray for wisdom and courage. Empower us by your Spirit to strive for justice and share your abundance. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of peace, you command us to love one another and live in peace with our neighbors. Yet, because of our closed minds, prejudice, and suspicion of difference, we frequently choose violence and war, we discriminate against minorities and the marginalized, we suppress basic human rights, we contribute to conflict amongst ethnic and religious groups. We pray for wisdom and humility. Empower us by your Spirit to embrace one another and walk peacefully together. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
Tender and compassionate God, sustain in our hearts the spirit of loving-kindness. Strengthen our work with neighbors of different creeds and beliefs, cultures, and ethnicities. Guide us as we bring healing to this earth and all its creatures. Preserve in our hearts songs of peace and rhythms of justice. In your mercy, hear our prayer. (Book of Common Worship pp.605-606)
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. 😉