O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 118:
Psalm 118 is written from the perspective of an individual whose voice is woven into the liturgy of the worshiping community; a community that is the anchor for the psalmist. The soloist sings about personal redemption, and the community joins the song in solidarity and in affirmation that God’s love, not our distress, is what endures. Christians see in this psalm the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Psalm 118 is the psalm the gospel writers quote the most. “All four of the gospel writers use the words of Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD,” in their Palm Sunday narratives.” W p. 144
As an individual singer “in verse 17 the psalmist affirms, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.” The psalm singer has escaped; the enemy has perished; a new life lies ahead.” W p. 147 This story is much like the Israelites escaped Egypt, saw pharaohs army perish, and later entered the promised land and the new life it held. And it reminds us of Jesus, who died and rose again. The stone that was rejected (like the rejected Messiah) becomes the corner stone of our faith.
What I hear in Psalm 118 on Palm Sunday is courage and faith. It is Jesus’ courage to withstand whatever is coming in what we now call holy week, knowing that it will be awful and yet believing that violence and death never have the last word in the story of God’s people. It is goodness, mercy and love that endure forever.
And for us, we are the worshipers who join the solo psalmist, and the gospel writers, adding our own stories of life, death, and resurrection. We find strength in Christ and in each other as we continue God’s work of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting the prisoner, uplifting the oppressed, and giving good things to the poor. And we do these things knowing that they will upset the empire, the status quo, and the sick systems set up to keep the rich and powerful in control. 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. But this is not the kind of world God had in mind for us, so we continue to stand with Christ in opposition to hatred and violence, knowing that these systems are powerful enough to kill.
Resurrection doesn’t happen when things are looking good. Resurrection happens when hope is all but lost. God doesn’t fight the same way the powerful forces of evil do. Love is stronger than death. Love is what will remain forever.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
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.
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 courage and release my control.
Or you may want to use a short phrase: God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 118 is the final Egyptian Hallel psalm. It is an interesting and weather lengthy composition with a significant history of transmission and use in Jewish and Christian religious life.” W p. 143
“The consensus of most scholars is that Psalm 118 was used in early Jewish life in liturgical processions, perhaps as an entrance liturgy into the temple in Jerusalem, in much the same way that Psalms 15 and 24 may have been used. According to the Mishnah the procession around the altar that took place on seven successive days during the feats of Tabernacles was accompanied by the recitation of Psalm 188:27. In the New Testament, Psalm 118 is the most quoted and referenced psalm from the Hebrew Bible.” W pp. 143-144
“All four of the gospel writers use the words of Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD,” in their Palm Sunday narratives.” W p. 144
“Psalm 118 is presented as the voice of an individual psalm singer, but that individual voice is woven into and “anchored in” the liturgy of the gathered worshiping community. We hear the individual in the fist twenty-three verses of the psalm thanking YHWH for deliverance from a situation of personal peril, and then, beginning in verse 24, the community adds its voice to that of the individual in a context of corporate worship.” W p. 145
“In verses 2-4 three groups of people are singled out to join in the words of thanks: Israel, the house of Aaron, and the ones who fear YHWH–the same three groups who are called on in Psalm 115:9-11. Whereas the groups are called in Psalm 115 to “trust in the LORD” as their “help and shield,” in Psalm 118 they are called to “say” that “YHWH’s steadfast love endures forever”. W p. 146
“The words of verse 14 repeat exactly the words that Moses, Miriam, and the children of Israel sing in Exodus 15:2 after they have crossed the Reed Sea; likewise the words of verses 15b and 16 echo those of Exodus 15:6 and 12 in a threefold summer of the might of the reign hand of YHWH. The singer of Psalm 118 likens the help rendered in the present situation to the help God gave the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt, and in verse 17 the psalmist affirms, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recoup the deeds of the LORD.” The psalm singer has escaped; the enemy has perished; a new life lies ahead.” W p. 147
“In the ancient Israelite context of Psalm 118 we may understand the “stone the builders rejected” as the psalm singer, who has not been rejected but has become a chief cornerstone, an essential element in the construction of the life of the ancient Israelite faithful.” W p. 148
“Psalm 118 is a rich composition, sung first as an individual hymn o thanksgiving in a corporate worship setting adopted by the ancient Israelites as a song of celebration for the feast of Tabernacles, and for Christians man of its verses suggest the life and times of Jesus. Erich Zenger says this about psalm 118: “As a voice in opposition to the threatening power of hatred and violence, the psalm evokes the experience of Israel and the church that the ‘true’God is ‘good,’…and that his ‘love,’ that is, his mercy, endures forever.”” W p.149
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.
DAFLER, J. (2021). PSOBRIETY: A journey of recovery through the psalms. Louisville, KY: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX.
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.
Merrill, N. C. (2020). Psalms for praying an invitation to wholeness (10th Anniversary Edition ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing.
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, 3rdSunday 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
Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 25, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 22, 3rdSunday in Lent Psalm 19, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 107, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 51 or Psalm 119:9-16, 6th Sunday in Lent (Palm or Passion Sunday) Psalm 118 or 31
Holy Week: Monday Psalm 36, Tuesday Psalm 71, Wednesday Psalm 70, Maundy Thursday Psalm 116, Good Friday Psalm 22, Holy Saturday Psalm 31