Psalm 94 A Service after a Violent Event

Psalm 94

How long, O Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph?  They bluster in their insolence; all evildoers are full of boasting.

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 😉 

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.   

Nicole Cardoza’s Guided Meditation For Anxiety
Try this short meditation, created by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, the next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious.  Read in Yoga Journal.

Mr. Roger’s “Taking a breath”  This one is short, but Mr. Roger’s voice is calming for me (and many Pittsburghers) and even his virtual presence can summon childhood memories of calmness and safety.  

Reflection:

Tonight, with the senior pastor, we will have a prayer service.  We decided this today… our nation is in crisis.  We need to gather our people to prayer.   We will be using the “service after a violent event” found in the Book of Common Worship.  This service includes readings from Psalm 94.  

How long, O Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph?

They bluster in their insolence; all evildoers are full of boasting.

They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your very own.  

They will kill the widow and the stranger and put the orphans to death.

Yet you will not abandon your people, nor will you forsake our very own.

If the Lord had not been my help, I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,” your steadfast love, O Lord, upheld me.

The Lord has become my stronghold, my God is my rock of refuge.

Psalm 94 reminds me that my call as a pastor is a call to be real, to be truthful, and to see our world as it is. What is happening in our nation’s capitol today is an act of white supremacist Christian nationalist hate spurred on by a man who should not have the power of the presidency.  Trump has incited this riot.  This is hate in action.  This is wrong.

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.  There is nothing beyond God’s justice.  Not even our present circumstances.

The Psalmist is crying out for God to have vengeance; asking God to bring about justice. And because God is with us, we have the opportunity to participate in bringing justice. 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:

One way to think about breath prayer is that whatever is exhaled other people will inhale. So, sometimes we might inhale and exhale the same idea with the hope that what we receive from God, we can share with others. For example, you may imagine receiving God’s steadfast love while praying that others are receiving God’s steadfast love.

Another way to think about breath prayer is to pick something you would like to receive for your inhalation and something you would like to release for your exhalation. The idea is to keep it simple, so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale. That simple prayer could be something like this: God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your love and release my anger.

Or you can use a simple phrase, like this: We wait for you, Lord, and in your word we hope. 

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

Sources and notes:

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 serves 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

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.

W de Claisse-Walford, Nancy L. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 4-5. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 22. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2020. 

W Hopkins, Denise Dombkowski. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 2-3. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 21. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2016. 

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.

Schlimm Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 2018. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. Nashville, TN: Abington 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.

I began writing Psalm reflections during Lent of 2020 shortly after we decided to close the church building, work from home, and worship via zoom.  Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C).  Starting in Advent 2019, Third Church decided to worship with the texts from Year D, which is still not circulated as are years 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. Reflections exploring the Psalms in year D.  While we were using Year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A.  Now that we are rejoining those who use the lectionary, we are on Year B.  This we hope will keep all of us planning and preparing worship on the same page.  

I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections when I’m following the Revised Common Lectionary.

Other Year B Psalm blog posts:

Advent – Transfiguration: 1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 80, 2nd Sunday in Advent Psalm 85, 3rd Sunday in Advent Psalm 126, 4th Sunday in Advent Psalm 89, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, 1st Sunday after Christmas, Psalm 148, New Year’s Day Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Christmas Psalm 147, Epiphany Psalm 72, 1st Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 139, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 62, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 111, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 147, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 50

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