“It [Psalm 82] becomes an axiom of Old Testament theology that the worship of the LORD must and shall bring justice to the weak. On the other hand, the forces and powers that control a society in which rights of the needy are violated and neglected are umasked as failed gods.” Mays pp. 270-271
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.
The worship of God must and shall bring justice to the weak and in doing so, reveals that the powers that control our society are failed gods. We live in a society in which the rights of the needy are violated and neglected. Ideas that shape middle class values are unmasked as failed gods (Mays pp. 270-271). We live in a city where the same neighborhood that houses prestigious universities is a food desert, and our failure to provide food security for our neighbors reveals that the false god of higher education doesn’t really make us better people living in a better world. Here is a link to food deserts in Pittsburgh as identified in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . We live in a city where the racist practice of redlining keeps our neighborhoods segregated, and our delusion that we live in a “good” neighborhood because of our own work is revealed as the false god of work ethic. Hard work doesn’t pull someone out of a system that keeps people in poverty because of the color of their skin. We worship in a place we consider the most livable city, but our prosperity and hospitality are revealed as false, because this city is only livable if you are white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, and wealthy (Organizations like SisTers PGH exist because people who are “different” experience violence and hardship). Our failure to provide safety and basic human dignity reveals the false idol that we live in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. And yes, Mr. Rogers lived here, but the neighborhood he created was based on the kingdom of God, where believers worship the God of Justice and Mercy and then go out and love their neighbors by supporting the weak, helping the afflicted and honoring all persons as beloved children of God. But we are no better than the failed gods of Psalm 82.
Psalm 82 is a liturgy that we should read over and over again. Because we worship in the midst of a world where nations and societies are still ruled by false gods (Mays p. 271). This liturgy reminds us that we worship the God of Justice and Mercy, and we must honor God by living justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God and neighbor. Our thoughts and prayers should lead us to action; the bringing about the kingdom of God; the overturning of systems and laws that oppress; and the building of a just and peaceful society.
We are fortunate to have opportunities to participate in mission projects that focus on relieving some of the unjust, oppressive, and evil systems in our city. Through our connections with PCUSA, we can join others already working for changes in our city. Garfield Farms feeds neighbors who live in a food desert, as does Feed the Hood, which operates in many locations, including our Third Church kitchen. Our friends at Open Hand Ministries provide a pathway to homeownership to people who live in places where that is still difficult. And more than ownership of a house on a block, they encourage community building in the neighborhoods. Many of the new worshiping communities in our presbytery are affirming of LGBTQIA+ including our friends at The Commonwealth of Oakland.
My point is that we are already connected to people doing good work in our community through our common faith. We can see examples of how other PCUSA churches are worshiping and working for the God of justice and peace. We have even supported all of the organizations I’ve mentioned with Third Church funds and/or building usage. And while that is a much needed support, it does not require much of us as individuals.
I wonder what God is calling Third Church to do, and what God is calling each of us to do, to hold up our corner of the kingdom of God.
Let us pray:
God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your spirit 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 82 was composed for performance in liturgy…. The psalm is a prayer that calls on God to do what the trial scene portrays: dispense with the gods and take over the judgement of earth as its rightful and supreme sovereign.” Mays p. 269
“Psalm 82 is in fact one of the songs in the Psalter that celebrates the reign of the LORD. It portrays God’s reign, not as a state or condition of things, but as something that is happening, an unfinished story.” Mays p. 269
God holds court with other gods, finds them guilty, and condemn them to death. “The charge against the gods is not that they are idols or nonexistent but that they have failed to put down wickedness and bring justice. Their failure, says the psalm, makes the foundation of the world unstable, a mythopoeic way of saying that their failure threatens the creation, the achievement on which the LORD’s rule is based (see 24:1-2). So the LORD as reigning deity removes them from office and condemns them to death. This portrayal of the assembly of the gods is unlike any other because it announces the permanent adjournment of the assembly and the execution of its constituency: the psalm announces the death of the gods. It is a way of saying in the face of a polytheistic worldview, “I beloved in God the Father Almighty.” The notion of the council is used to dramatize a profound shift in understanding reality. The context for human life is not the careers of the gods of the nations but the reign of the LORD.” Mays pp. 269-270
“It becomes an axiom of Old Testament theology that the worship of the LORD must and shall bring justice to the weak. On the other hand, the forces and powers that control a society in which rights of the needy are violated and neglected are umasked as failed gods.” Mays pp. 270-271
“The concluding prayer is important. It calls on God to replace the false gods and set things right in the world by his rule. The court saying provides a revelation of what is happening in history; the false gods are being uncovered and condemned. Bu the congregation worships in the midst of a world where nations and societies are still ruled by false gods.” Mays p. 271
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.
Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim 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, 18thSunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.