“Justice perseveres creation, allowing it to blossom and thrive; hidden within creation, You are the Heart of everything.” Nan C. Merrill Psalm 97
No justice, no peace.
‘I read Baptized in Tear Gas: From white moderate to abolitionist’ by Elle Dowd during advent. It is interesting to me how much of our advent liturgy revolves around the reign of God being aligned with justice and peace and in many white churches this liturgy does not seem to call up the cries for justice and peace in our current context. God became flesh and dwelt among us in a world that lacked justice and peace. The reign of God is marked by justice and peace, and those of us who take seriously our task of co-creating the reign of God on earth, must also take seriously the task of establishing justice and peace for everyone, especially the oppressed, and in the USA that means justice for black people.
Elle Dowd explains what is meant by the popular chant ‘no justice no peace’ in demonstrations in Ferguson and throughout the country, “White people tend to take that statement as a threat by mentally inserting a conditional “if-then” statement: if you do not give us the justice we seek, then we will destroy your peace. That is how I used to hear it too. And for some Black people, it may mean that, and that feeling is more than justified. But for the Black folks I met in the streets, this chant is less of a threat than a statement of reality. …. If there is no justice, there can be no peace. This lack of justice has brought on a lack of peace. Unless there is justice, how can we be at peace?” pp. 50-51
Unless there is justice, how can we be at peace? Unless there is justice and freedom from oppression, how can we understand the promises of God in Exodus 19, Psalm 97, and Luke 1: 46-55? Can we take the message of the prophets Miriam and Mary seriously if we leave out their message of justice? Unless there is justice, especially for the oppressed, how can we honor the Advent/Christmas story? Unless there is justice, how can we proclaim the indwelling kin-dom of God?
The lack of justice has brought on a lack of peace. Holy God, bring us justice, bring us peace.
No justice. No peace.
97:6 (CEV)The heavens announce, “The Lord brings justice!”
The Lord’s Prayer:
If you are new to breath prayer, I’ve recorded some examples:
Here are some simple breath prayers to accompany this psalm:
Meditate on justice
A simple prayer with one word on exhalation and one on inhalation: God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your justice and release my control.
Or you can split a longer phrase between inhalation and exhalation or put a phrase on both. Here is an example: God rules with justice and peace. God bring us justice and peace.
Do what is most comfortable to you. Breath prayer is a practice not something we do perfectly. Some days will be easier than others.
Ok, everyone, take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
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. It is a practice I have continued since. Many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary (RLC) 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. While we were using Psalms in year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A. In Advent of 2020 we rejoined those who use the lectionary in year B. Advent of 2021 follows year C of lectionary pattern with Psalms in year C.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections.
Other Year C Psalm blog posts:
Advent – Transfiguration: 1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 25, 2nd Sunday in Advent instead of a Psalm the lectionary gives Luke 1:68-79, 3rd Sunday in Advent instead of a Psalm the lectionary gives Isaiah 12:2-6, 4th Sunday in Advent Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80, 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 35, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 19, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 71, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 138, 6th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 1, 7th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 37, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 99
Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 91, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 27, 3rdSunday in Lent Psalm 63, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 32, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 126, 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 Psalm 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 150, 3rdSunday of Easter Psalm 30, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 148, 6thSunday of Easter Psalm 67, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 97, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104
Season After Pentecost (Ordinary Time): 1st Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 or Psalm 22, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 77 or Psalm 16, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 30 or Psalm 66, 5th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 82 or Psalm 25, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 52 or Psalm 15, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 85 or Psalm 138, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 107 or Psalm 49, 9thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 50 or Psalm 33, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 80 or Psalm 82, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 71 or Psalm 103, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 81 or Psalm 112, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139 or Psalm 1, 14th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 14 or Psalm 51, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 113, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 146, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 137 or Psalm 37, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 66 or Psalm 111, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 121, 20thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 65 or Psalm 84, 21st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 32, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 145 or Psalm 98 or Psalm 17, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 98, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 46.
Sources and notes:
“The foundation of the LORD’s throne, says the psalm, is not built of attributes of pure power but of qualities of ethical conduct. In naming righteousness and justice as the symbolic base of the LORD’s throne (v. 2; 89:14), the psalm puts the focus on the attributes that lay at the center of the prophetic understanding of the LORD’s reign. The LORD’s reign is power devoted to righteousness and justice. Righteousness is the rightness that makes for life and shalom; justice is found in decisions and actions according to righteousness. Both, in the vocabulary of the psalms and the prophets, are qualities and events belonging to the LORD’s reign.” Mays p. 311
“Psalm 97 opens with the familiar words, “The LORD is king [reigns]” and calls on the earth and the coastlands to rejoice and be glad. It continues in verses 2-5 with theophany language, describing God’s ongoing presence in the created world; clouds and thick darkness, fire, lightnings, and mountains melting like was. One of the most significant theophanic appearances of God in the Hebrew Bible is at Sinai in Exodus 19, and thus the opening words of Psalm 97 are another call to the reader or hearer to remember the time of the wilderness wanderings.” W p. 33
97:4 and 96:9 use formed/birthed and tremble/twirl or dance (wisdom commentary)
“The image of the habitable world “dancing” before God in Psalms 96 and 97 conjures up the image of Exodus 15:20-21, where the prophet Miriam leads the women in dance… to celebrate the defeat of the Egyptians whom God “has thrown into the sea”” W p. 33
“The women of the exodus, who danced with timbrels, gave hope to the women and men living in Babylon that the same God who delivered them at the Reed Sea could and would deliver them from their exile on the shores of the Euphrates River.” W pp. 34-35
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.