The only proof we can offer of a God of love and justice, is to exist as a community who embodies the character and promises of God. We must do justice, love kindness, and give generously of ourselves.
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 37 (my husband is reading this one):
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.
Sometimes, evil and injustice are paralyzing. I am so overwhelmed with the enormity of it all, that I feel small and powerless so I freeze and do nothing. I become trapped by fear and that frozen fear only solidifies apathy. I can’t do anything so why try?
And yet, I believe that God is bigger, stronger, more loving, and able to bring about justice. And I wonder if God is all of those things how does evil even exist? What exactly does God’s justice look like? How can I participate in it? Do I have the stamina to participate and to encourage others along the way? Why do the righteous suffer?
Suffering is a mystery to me, that Psalm 37 can’t resolve, nor can thousands of reflections and sermons. It is a mystery that I experience more than I understand; much like all of the mysteries of God. But maybe the question isn’t why is there suffering but who can save us from suffering. And Psalm 37 affirms that it is God who offers salvation. We can hope and trust that God will make things right. Eventually, love wins and evil will not have the last word. I can see those eschatological promises throughout scripture. It can be difficult to have prove these promises, because I can not prove them unless I embody the promises of God in my life. I like what the NIB commentary says, “The only proof we can offer that God rules the world is the tangible existence of a community that is shaped by the character of God and God’s claim. We prove that God rules the world when we trust in God (vv. 3, 5), “do good” (vv. 3, 27), commit our way to God (v. 5), “give generously” (v. 21), “seek justice” (v. 30), open ourselves to God’s instruction (v. 31), and “take refuge in” God (v. 40). Such humble dependence on God is, in effect, to “inherit the land”—it is life as God intends it, abundant and eternal.”
Let us pray:
God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your passion and release my apathy. You can always pick different words for your breath prayer. But the idea of a breath prayer is to keep it simple so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 37—along with Psalms 49;73; and the book of Job–is often labeled a theodicy, because it implies the question, Ho can God be just while there is so much evil in the world? “Theodicy” means literally, “justice of God”; while this label may be too restrictive, there is some rationale for considering Psalm 37 to be a homiletical exploration of the issue of God’s justice. The word “justice” (mispat) occurs in vv. 6, 28, 30 (the phrase “when brought to trial” in v. 33 NIV also represents the same Hebrew root).” NIB pp. 408-409
“The only proof we can offer that God rules the world is the tangible existence of a community that is shaped by the character of God and God’s claim. We prove that God rules the wold when we trust in God (vv. 3, 5), “do good” (vv. 3, 27), commit our way to God (v. 5), “give generously” (v. 21), “speak justice” (v. 30), open ourselves to God’s instruction (v. 31), and “take refuge in” God (v. 40). Such humble dependence on God is, in effect, to “inherit the land”—it is life as God intends it, abundant and eternal.”
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 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.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Miller 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.
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.
The Apocalyptic Discourse 15th – 19th Sundays in Ordinary time: 15th Sunday Psalm 17:8-14(15) or Psalm 83, 16th Sunday Psalm 54, 17th Sunday Psalm 50 or Psalm 105, 18th Sunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.