Psalm 91 (B)

Psalm 91

God who birthed all of creation, suckle and sustain us as we learn to have a heart of wisdom.

Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 91:

Reflection:

From the Wisdom Commentary we can understand “…the basic meaning of the word “Almighty–Shaddai” is “breast”…” and that, “The epithet “Shaddai” in Psalm 91:1 may be understood as reference to the nurturing, nourishing God who gave birth to the earth (Ps 90:2) and now suckles it–satisfies it–as it learns to have a “heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). References that tie nurturing breasts to God and God’s goodness are numerous in the Hebrew Bible.” W p. 12 Genesis 49:25; Isaiah 66:11; Ruth 1:20-21; Psalm 22:9-10; and Job 20:21 W p. 12

We can see Psalms 90, 91, and 92 as a single unit that takes us on the journey of crying out to our mother (Psalm 90), finding with the nurturing mother the promise to sustain (Psalm 91), and finally expressing gratitude (Psalm 92).

Almighty sacred mother, protector, nurturer, sustainer, and all of your holy names in which we pray. In calling you by name we only have a glimpse of the vastness that you are. Forgive us when our metaphors fail. Forgive us when we hide what is uncomfortable or doesn’t fit the establishment’s image looming large in stained glass shedding light only on a fraction of all that you are, but really only highlighting our own desires of who you are. Help us to see you in even the humbleness of a sparrow.

Like little birds we chirp and peck. And like a mother bird you protect us in the shadow of your wing. Your wings are heavy like a down comforter on a rainy day. Your wings are a shield from the wind and rain. Your wings are shields or city walls. When we cry to you, you provide safety and shelter in your nest. You give us wisdom from your heart and nourishment from within your breast. We have no reason to fear the storm above or the rocks below, for we have this holy place of sticks, and feathers, and mud, and… love. Help us to love this place best. Keep us in the shelter of your nest. Amen.

Prayer:

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 heart of wisdom and release my heart of stone.

Or you may want to use a short phrase: Give us wisdom from your heart and nourishment from within your breast.

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

Sources and notes:

“Psalms 90-92 open book 4 of the Psalter: Scholars have long recognized a connectedness among the three psalms, on that includes wisdom motifs, concern with the human condition, and finding security in YHWH. With Erich Zenger, i consider Psalms 90-92 to be “eine komposition” (a single composition) that is linked by keyword motifs, by questions in one psalm that are answered in a following psalm, and with a Mosaic inclusio. We can see movement in the three psalms from lament in Psalm 90 to promise in Psalm 91 to thanksgiving in Psalm 92.” W p. 3

“Psalm 91 seems to offer and answer to the people’s pleas to God in Psalm 90:13 and 14… ” W p. 10

“In words of confident praise the singer of the psalm celebrates the many ways that God cares for and ultimately “satisfies” (v.16) those who trust.” W p. 10

“Some suggest that the basic meaning of the word “Almighty–Shaddai” is “breast”, while others maintain that “mountain” is the referent and thus unseated “Shaddai” as “God of the Mountains”. But let us move backward to Psalm 90:2 and then forward to Psalm 91:4 as we attempt to find a meaning for verse 1’s use of “Shaddai” Psalm 90:2 depicts God birthing the earth and the inhabitable world, and in verses 3, 12, and 14 the psalmists request that God give “humankind” and “mortals” a “heart of wisdom” and that God “satisfy humanity.” W p. 12

“The epithet “Shaddai” in Psalm 91:1 may be understood as reference to the nurturing, nourishing God who gave birth to the earth (Ps 90:2) and now suckles it–satisfies it–as it learns to have a “heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). References that tie nurturing breasts to God and God’s goodness are numerous in the Hebrew Bible.” W p. 12 Genesis 49:25; Isaiah 66:11; Ruth 1:20-21; Psalm 22:9-10; and Job 20:21 W p. 12

… in the context of Psalms 90 and 91 YHWH’s winged protection in 91:4 is best understood as the protection a mother gives to the child she has born, suckled, and taught to live with wisdom in a world where adversity presents itself on every side.” W p. 13

“God’s repeated promise to care for and protect the psalm singers leads to the declaration in verse 16 that God will finally “satisfy”–they very request made by Psalm 90:14. These words of promise, of course, are heard in dissonance by those whom God has not satisfied in the midst of so many trials and setbacks in life. But they perhaps offer a hope of the eventuality of satisfaction to those who seek to live the a “heart of wisdom.” W p. 13

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, 9thSunday 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, 20thSunday 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.

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