On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Psalm 22:10
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 22:
“How did the “Good Friday Psalm” end up in the middle of our Easter season?” Was my first thought when I saw Psalm 22 come up in the lectionary again. And I sat with that question for a long time.
Asking that question of the lectionary felt similar to asking why many of us have seasons in our lives when our prayers start with “Dear Lord, not again”. It seems we have been in that season or know someone who has been in that season over the last year. Recently, the sharing of bad news comes with the tag, and because of the pandemic I couldn’t be with the people I wanted to be with in this sad time. Life can be hard, and the pandemic has exacerbated any difficulties, and we aren’t out of this yet.
The psalms of lament and the psalms pleading for help resonate deeper this year than they have before, at least for me, and maybe for you too. There is something really cathartic about giving voice to these feelings and knowing that believers have had these feelings for generations. We are not alone.
As I spent more time with Psalm 22 I noticed that beyond the cry for help and the sadness, there is a deep and abiding sense of relationship with the divine. Verse 22 says, “On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.” There was not a second of my life in which I did not belong to God. And even though that does not come with any promises about an easy and happy life, it means I am never as alone as I feel, and remembering that might be enough to get me through those seasons of “Dear Lord, not again”.
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 steadfast love and release my isolation.
Or you may want to use a short phrase: You are my God, forever and always.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 22, perhaps more than any other psalm, serves as a link to the story of Jesus’ passion, the core of the Gospels. Ot the thirteen references to the Old Testament in the passion stories, eight come from the book of Psalms, and five of those are from Psalm 22. All three psalms that provide material for the passion (Psalms 22; 31; 69) are laments spoken by an individual (or “prayers for help by an individual”). The Gospel writers seem to have identified this as an appropriate genre for the crucifixion account. The church in turn has read these laments in light of Jesus’ suffering and death.” Creach p. 86
“… to view Psalm 22 as prophecy only in the strict sense of prediction denies the suffering of those many who prayed th psalm before Jesus. Jesus, in fact, stands in their tradition and in solidarity with them.” Creach p. 87
“… the Gospel writers understood Psalm 22, not so much as prediction, but as a lens through which to view the death of Jesus.” Creach p. 87
“The psalm is composed by using the device of repetition or doubling. There is a twiceness in the arrangement from the opening vocative to the total structure itself. The whole is compose of a prayer for help (vv. 1-21) and a song of praise for help (vv. 22-31). These two types and the acts they express are distinct, as would be expected from the different situations that give rise to them. But here the two are joined in a city as though the two acts of prayer and praise and the two situations of affliction and salvation must be comprehended in one arc of meaning to express what is happening.” Mays p. 107
“What happens in this psalm is , in its basic plot, a case of the experience though which the believing Israelite passed in praying in tribulation, using prayers for help and then later, when delivered, praising God with a company of friends. Here the two are joined, intensified, and magnified in a scenario that identifies the combination as the way in which God manifests and discloses his universal eternal reign.” Mays p. 108
“The alternation in the psalm between description of trouble and statements about God’s way expresses the contradiction that rends the soul when the unity of faith and experience is broken.” Mays p. 109
“The communal dimension of Psalm 22 is particularly worthy of note. It is present from almost the beginning of the psalm (vv. 3-5), even when it seems to be a meager source of comfort and hope. But immediately upon being answered by God (v. 21b), the psalmist turns to the congregation, praising God and inviting their participation (vv. 22-23). Then the psalmist gathers a table-sharing community consisting of “the afflicted” (v. 24) and “the poor” (v 26), who will “be satisfied” and join in the chorus of praise–indeed, who will experience life in allies fullness (v. 26). Even more remarkable, this community of afflicted ones will be the stimulus for the formation of a community that knowns no bounds, consisting of people from all nations–living, dead, and yet unborn! God’s reign will be universally acclaimed.” NIB p. 363
“By telling the story of Jesus using Psalm 22, the Gospel writers affirm that in Jesus’ faithful suffering, as in the psalmist’s faithful suffering, God was present. God’s presence with the afflicted and dying opens up new possibilities for understanding and living human life, as well as for understanding and accepting death. Because of these new possibilities, the Gospel writers saw in Psalm 22 a source for articulating the meaning of both the cross and the resurrection. Thus Jesus’ cry from the cross (Matt 26:46; Mark 15:34; cf. Ps 22:1) is not simply a cry of dereliction; it is an affirmation of faith in God, who as the psalmist comes to understand and articulate, shares human affliction and enables even the dead to praise God.” NIB pp. 363-364
“In short, Jesus lived, like the psalmist, as one of the afflicted, but in the knowledge that God does not despise the afflicted (Ps 22:24). Rather, God loves the afflicted, and God shares in their suffering. So Jesus, like the psalmist, gathered around himself a community of the afflicted, the poor, the outcast. He sat at table with them, and he still invites to his table those who profess to live in humble dependence upon God rather than self. In essence, Gospel writers recognized that Psalm 22 affirms what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus affirm. Suffering and glory are inseparable, both for the people of God and for God’s own self!” NIB p. 364
“There is no reason to think that Israel at the end of Psalm 22 would have promptly recited Psalm 23. Regardless, Psalm 23 provides a full culmination and resolve to Psalm 22. There is a good reason to take the two Psalms tighter. When we take Psalm 23 by itself as the church is won’t to do, it may claim far too quickly that “all is well”. Psalm 22 knows better than that. Psalm 22 knows that the darkness must be fully and deeply engaged The reality of much of life is one of divine abandonment, of being in the valley without the protective staff, of being before enemies without a good table or a full cup. The miracle of it all is that Israel and, after Jesus, the church have found the stamina and the grounding to confess that, in the abandonment, God can yet be trusted. While Psalm 22:1 is a rhetorical shock when we stop and pay attention to it, perhaps the trust voice in Psalm 23 is anticipated even there, because the very one who abandons continues to be “my God”. In the courage of faith that borders on hutzpah, the church dares to confess that “my God” who abandons is still and in any case “the Good Shepherd”. This may lead to reliance on the “goodness and mercy” of God that is given in the risen one who appears at the end of Psalm 22 in praise and in devotion to the well-being of the community.” Brueggemann p. 105
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.
Chittister Chittister, Joan. (2011). Songs of the heart: reflections on the psalms. John Garratt Publishing.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach 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
Easter: Easter Psalm 118 or 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 133, 3rd Sunday of Easter Psalm 4, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 22, 6th Sunday of Easter Psalm 98, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 1, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104