Psalm 35 Trinity Sunday

Psalm 35

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:

Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉 

Breath Prayer:  I am including breath prayers because this is the practice that I engage in most often.  Sometimes, I simply manage my breathing as I would when I was singing as a warmup and strengthening exercise.  This practice helps me to feel centered, strong, and connected with myself and the divine.  Sometimes, I add words or intentions for the inhalation and exhalation.  

I did a breath prayer video for my friends at Missing Peace.

Here is a video of me reading “Water Dance” by Thomas Locker. I choose this story for the children because it talks about different ways we can experience water. I think it can be a metaphor for the different ways we experience God’s presence in the different seasons of our lives. Try not to go to far into modalism. Remember God is a mystery that we experience more than we understand.


We’ve already read Psalm 35 in Holy Week: Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35. It appears again on Trinity Sunday (this year June 7th) with these texts: 1 Kings 9:1-9; 11:1-13, or Ecclesiastes 8:1-17; John 15:18-25 (26-27); 16:1-4a; and 2 Corinthians 12:11-21; 13:1-10 (11-13).

Trinity Sunday according to the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship: “This theological festival celebrates the nature and mission of the triune God–an identity and purpose we share as those who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday is a fitting summation of the fist half of the Christian year, as we have remembered the saving promise of God through history (in Advent and Christmas), proclaimed the mystery of faith in the crucified and risen Lord (in Lent and Easter), and witnessed the transforming work of the Spirit in the world (at Pentecost). We may also say that every Sunday is Trinity Sunday, as on the first day of the week the Lord God began creation, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the church. The observance of Trinity Sunday began among Western Christians in the tenth century and developed slowly until it was formally established on the Sunday after Pentecost by Pope John XXII in the fourteenth century.”

You can check out this video from Lutheran Satire about St. Patrick and the Trinity. It usually makes its way around social media (remember I have a lot of clergy friends) on St. Patrick’s Day and Trinity Sunday. The video goes quickly at the part about the Athanasian Creed. The theology of other creeds are influenced by the idea of a Triune God. You can check out the pdf of the Book of Confessions of the PCUSA.

But back to Psalm 35. Shalom has been broken. A social contract has been broken and innocent people are suffering. Not because of anything they did but because of who they are. This psalm gives voice to the people crying out to God about the situation they are in. The psalmist talks of people suffering unjustly because of their faith. In the gospel of John (John 15:18-25 (26-27); 16:1-4a), Jesus talks about being hated and persecuted and tells the disciples they can expect to be hated because of him. Hatred of the way Jesus lived, taught the disciples to live, and called us to live is based in the world’s rejection of radical love. Love that is inclusive of all people, not regardless of who they are, but because of who they are; unique individuals representing all manner of human diversity. I believe in radical love.

When I read this psalm and the news, it is difficult not to compare the two. I wish I could say something meaningful about the recent horrors of watching yet another black person die simply because they are black living in America. I don’t have words. For now, I am working to educate myself by reading trustworthy news sources, books by black authors, and listening to the community around me in Pittsburgh. I will not but undo burdens on black friends and colleagues to explain it to me. I should be responsible for educating myself and for having difficult discussions with other white people. And I won’t ask them to come to my church zoom meetings as a favor; because this is work; really hard work and they deserve to be compensated for that work. I am lucky to be in a church that values that kind of work and is more than glad to compensate guest speakers.

And I’m trying to be sensitive about what I share on social media in hopes of educating others, that I am not re-traumatizing black people. While it may be important for some to view graphic material to understand what happened, I believe in making that content available with warnings or in comments so that the person simply scrolling can move on without inflicting pain. But I’m hoping to use my social media presence, especially the period pastor facebook page to share information that might be helpful for my followers (recently I reached 200 page likes, which is a small number in the grand scheme of things but I can’t pretend this is just my parents liking and sharing my stuff. And regardless of how many it is, for me it is important to know that people are watching my example).

I know that by embracing feminism I have stumbled into embracing white feminism. I’m going to get things wrong, but when I know better I will do better. I believe that feminism can and should be good for everyone. I believe in radical love.

Let us pray: Holy Triune God, purge my sin with your refining fire and pull me up from the ashes that I may be renewed to do your work in my embodied and online communities. Help me to recognize and listen to the pain of those who are sinned against, especially those of black people. Our world is set up to favor the strong and the privileged, but your will is for those who are marginalized to be exalted and the mighty to be brought down. Holy God, work among your people so that we may help to create a new social contract in which all members of society are honored, cared for, and loved. Breathe on me breath of God, fill me we love anew, that I may love as you love and do what you would do. Amen.

For our breath prayer:

God, fill me with your Holy Spirit. I receive your goodness and release my ungodliness.

Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in goodness. Breath out ungodliness. Repeat as needed.

I used a prayer of confession for worship at Third Church this weekend based on the Lectionary Year D resource “Greater Attention: Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship” by Timothy Matthew Slemmons pp. 128-129. These are mostly his words, but I edited some of it to be shorter and more concise:

Holy, Holy, Holy LORD, God of power and might, we confess that we have seen and participated in a vanity that takes place on the earth by which the righteous are treated as wicked, and the wicked are treated as righteous.  Even among those whom you have called to be your church there is quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, disorder, impurity, immorality, and licentiousness. Slow to repent of our past sins, we now humble ourselves before you.  Forgive us, O God, for the wrongs we have done, both personally and was your people in this world.  Redirect us so that we may follow the way of love as Christ showed us and called us to.  Amen.

Creator:Lynzi Miller
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Sources and notes:

“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)”. Mays 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.” Mays 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.” Mays 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.” NIB 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?” NIB p. 403

“Psalm 35 may be perceived as a royal, or national lament, equivalent to Ps. 28, an individual psalm which has as its background the difficulties arising from sone kind of human covenant relationship. Here, in Ps. 35, the scene is a larger one, for though it is a king who has difficulties with a foreign partner, the two individual person represent two nation states. Thus the psalm provides some insight concerning the response of a nation’s leader to a crisis of awesome proportions with respect to Israel’s survival as a nation. The crisis of surviving a foreign military threat was difficult enough, but what aded to the frustration was the face that the threat rose in the form of an ally, one toward whom the psalmist had behaved properly in every legal respect. Innocent of any evil acts which might have justified the emergence of such a crisis, the king falls back on the ultimate defense of his nation, namely God, who as witness to the treaty perceived precisely where the fault lay with regard to the breaking of the treaty regulations. hence the psalmist’s declarations of innocence and his desire to be judged do not rest in any false piety or self-righteousness; they are based only on the conscious awareness that the treaty stipulations have been faithful observed. And his prayer that defeat and disaster fall upon his one-time ally is not simply human vindictiveness, but a desire that the treaty curses come into effect, thereby delivering the king from the unwarranted crisis and at the same time vindicating God as the Lord and King of Israel. ” p. 288 WBC

“The broader theological implications of the psalm are brought our clearly by the quotation of v 19 (cf. v 7) in the NT (John 15:25). Jesus warns his disciples that when they experience the world’s hatred, they should remember the word hated him first and that its hatred was without cause. But the purpose of the psalm is transformed in the life and ministry of Jesus. Whereas the Hebrew king prayed for deliverance from the hatred of enemies, Jesus eventually succumbed to that hatred in his death. And whereas the Hebrew king invoked the curses of a treaty to escape hatred, Jesus underwent human hatred to eliminate the curses suspended over human lives as a consequence of their sin. In other words, the death of Jesus as a consequence of human hatred became the act by which a new treaty, or new covenant, was to be forged between god and mankind. It was not a treaty between the nation states of this world, but rather a covenant making possible for all mankind citizenship in the kingdom of God.” pp. 288-289 WBC

WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.

Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.

Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.

Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.

Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.

OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.

Other Year D Psalm blog posts:

I’m attempting a series exploring the Psalms in year D.  Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C).  Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others.  

I began this series in Lent 2020.  These blog posts include examples of meditation or spiritual discipline or mindfulness exercises.  Here are the 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.  I went a different direction during Holy Week and dropped the Psalms for a while, but I’m hoping to pick them back up again. 

I’m going to try to move forward with the Psalms so that it might be useful for worship in the coming weeks and hoping that I can also go back and pick up some of the ones I missed.  

Holy Week: Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35, Maundy Thursday Psalm 115 or 113, Good Friday Psalm 88, Holy Saturday (Great Vigil) Psalms 7, 17, 44, 57 or 108, 119:145-176, 149.

The Season of Easter: Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) Psalm 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76, 2nd Sunday in Easter Psalm 64 or Psalm 119:73-96, 3rd Sunday in Easter Psalm 60 or 108, 4th Sunday in Easter Psalm 10, 5th Sunday in Easter Psalm 49: (1-12) 13-20, 6thSunday in Easter Psalm 129, Ascension Thursday Psalm 119:145-176, 7th Sunday in Easter Psalm 115, and Pentecost Sunday Psalm 119:113-136.

Then we move into “ordinary time” which is broken up into sections throughout the liturgical year.  Remember that the year starts with Advent (I started this adventure in Lent) so some of the ordinary Sundays have already happened.

Trinity -Ordinary Time- Christ the King: Trinity Sunday Psalm 35, 9th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 142, 10th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 74, 11th Sunday Psalm 7, 12th Sunday Psalm 55, 13th Sunday Psalm 56, and 14th Sunday Psalm 57 or Psalm 3.

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