Remember, life is short! Why did you empty our lives of all meaning? (Psalm 89: 47 CEV)
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 89:
I know a lot about unfinished objects, because come from a long line of women who had the luxury of a sewing room. Sewing rooms collect unfinished projects. Everyone I know with a sewing room has a place where unfinished projects go. I actually went on a quilting retreat once that didn’t have a planned project. We were to bring our unfinished objects and with any luck, finish them on the retreat. Many tired and few suceeded. What I noticed was that unfinished objects have unfinished stories. Sometimes it’s simply that the crafter ran out of time or lost interest in the project. Sometimes the project goes unfinished because the baby we thought was coming didn’t come so the blanket went unfinished. Or grandma died before she topstitched this quilt and its hard to work on without her. But we can’t bare to get rid of these unfinished things because they are beautiful.
Sewists aren’t the only people with unfinished projects and unressovled stories. I know because unresolved stories are the stories people tell pastors. No one knows what to do when there isn’t a resolution, closure, a kiss good bye or at least a ‘you’re a jerk’ to end things. I hold so many of my own stories and the stories of others that I finally imagined a box labeled ufo (unfinished objects) where I put those stories. (Also in the box are unresolved, unfixable, and all of the beautiful but broken things we don’t know what else to do with). They are safe there in their unfinished state. They are no longer taking up room in my hands so I can do other work.
In Psalm 89 we see that the people of God remember God’s promises and are waiting for the fulfillment of those promises. They are waiting for the happy ending. And in the midst of current unpleasant circumstances, they are waiting anxiously. We know God’s attributes are righteousness, justice, steadfast love, and faithfulness. We also know that right now it doesn’t feel like that because the world is full of self-righteousness, injustice, hate, and disloyalty. We are disillusioned. Why did the LORD’s anointed fail? Why can’t the people of God live in peace and safety? How long O God, until you come to make things right? Even in the midst of unanswered questions and unfinished work, the psalmist affirms that God always listens and remembers. Knowing that God does not forget, gives us a little hope that God will return and make all things new.
This pandemic time or can we say post pandemic yet? Maybe not yet. Anyway, this pandemic time is full of unfinished, unresolved, unfulfilled stories. It has been and still is a season of anxious waiting.
As people of faith, we know that we are not alone, we have each other and we have a god who listens when we pray, when we cry, and when we scream into the void. So together we wait, we hope, and we talk to God who listens to all of our unfinished stories. And together we will find a way to move forward.
I invite you to give God the unfinished story your holding (or if you like, I’ll put it in the ufo box for you) so it is no longer taking up room in your hands. I believe that as God’s people we are called to continue God’s unfinished work of justice and love, even if we don’t finish the work.
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 hope and release my anxiety.
Or you may want to use a short phrase: I will sing of your love forever. Give me strength to sing again.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“This long psalm begins with the praise of the LORD’s everlasting faithfulness to his covenant with David and ends with a lament of bewildered anguish over the suffering and humiliation the LORD has brought on his anointed. The chosen one has become the rejected one. That reversal is the plot of the psalm and the problem with which it wrestles.” Mays p. 283
“Most of the psalm is devoted to an evocation of those former deeds of loyalty (vv. 1-37). The introduction announces the two related themes, the faithfulness that belongs to the heavenly king (vv. 1-2) and the covenant promise made to David (vv. 3-4). Mays p. 283
Rehab is the chaos dragon. “The myth is used to portray the LORD as the warrior God upon whose victory over his enemies the very existence of the world depends.” Mays p. 284
“The two pairs of attributes that characterize the LORD, righteousness/justice and steadfast love/faithfulness, are represented as aspects of his kingship.” Mays pp. 284-285
“The quoted oracle does not say why the LORD chose David and swore a covenant oath of faithfulness to his kingship. What the oracle does do is depict David’s kingship as a reflection of the LORD’s kingship.” Mays p. 286
“This version of God’s promise to David reckons with the failure of David’s descendants (vv. 30-32, also II Sam. 7:14-15; cf. Ps. 132:11-12). They are subject to the conditional covenant made at Sinai between God and people. The laws of God apply to them. They are subject to judgment and punishment without reservation. But their faithlessness does not cancel the faithfulness of God. They may violate his covenant with God, but God will not violate his covenant with David (vv. 33-35). Mays pp. 286-287
“The psalm turns to the painful present (vv 38-45).” Mays p. 287
“The psalm contains no resolution of the dilemma, save appeal to the faithfulness of God.” Mays p. 288
Tate considers psalms 73 &74 with psalms 88 & 89 as book ends for Book 3 of the Psalms. “Thus at both ends of Book III there is a psalm which deals with the theological distress of an individual followed by a psalm which expresses the distress in terms of the nations. In fact, Book III seems to deal over and over with the bafflement of believers who are struggling with the gap between promise and reality” WBC p. 429
“Both Ps 88 and 89 end without a resolution…. They do not end with domesticated consonance. In the long run, however, their dissonance may be a greater source of strength and comfort. …. Pss 88 and 89 give no “beautiful answers”; rather lament, questions, and pleas. The psalms do, however, presuppose a listening God … who hears both praise and bitter lament, and who always has the capacity to remember–a God who does not forget.” WBC p. 430 Even for Christians who believe Jesus is the Messiah, there is no closure, because Christians are still waiting for the second coming.
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.
Lewis, C. S. (2017). Reflections on the Psalms. Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
McCann McCann, J. C. (1993). A theological introduction to the book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah. Nashville, TN: Abingdon 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
Season After Pentecost (Ordinary Time): 1st Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 138 or Psalm 130, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 20 or Psalm 92, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 9 or Psalm 133 or Psalm 107, 5th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 130 or Psalm 30, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 48 or Psalm 123, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 24 or Psalm 85, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 89 or Psalm 23, 9th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 14 or Psalm 145, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 51 or Psalm 78, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 130 or Psalm 34, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 111 or Psalm 34, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 84 or Psalm 34, 14th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 45 or Psalm 15, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 125 or Psalm 146, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 19 or Psalm 116, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 1 or Psalm 54, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 124 or Psalm 19, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 26 or Psalm 8, 20th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 22 or Psalm 90, 21st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 104 or Psalm 91, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 34 or Psalm 126, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 146 or 119, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 127 or Psalm 146, 25th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 16, 26th Sunday after Pentecost (Christ the King) Psalm 132 or Psalm 93.