Psalm 32 (C)

Blessed are you whose wrong doings have been forgiven,
whose shame has been forgotten.
Blessed are you in whom Love Divine finds a home,
and whose spirit radiates truth.
Nan C. Merrill

Psalm 32:


In “Songs of the Heart: Reflections on the Psalms” Joan Chittister writes, “The inability to forgive another almost certainly arises out of an inability to forgive ourselves. When we refuse to give ourselves permission to be anything but perfect–as if failure did not bring its own lessons in life–we certainly are not able to forgive anyone else.”

I agree with Joan, and I would add that when I can’t forgive myself, I also cannot believe that others (including God) can forgive me either. Prayers for forgiveness include asking for God’s forgiveness and for God’s strength to help me forgive myself. And permission to stop punishing myself. Sometimes I have to ask myself, if someone else was seeking forgiveness, would I give it? The answer is always yes. So, I should treat myself the way I would treat others, with forgiveness and love. I have learned not to expect perfection of others, so I need to give myself permission to be imperfect too.

Blessed are those who forgive their own imperfection, 
whose shame is not longer holding them back.
Blessed am I in whom Love dwells, 
love of God, love of others, and love of self,
my spirit will radiate holy truth.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Breath 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 forgiven-ness

A simple prayer with one word on exhalation and one on inhalation: God fill me with your Holy Spirit. I receive your love and release my shame. 

Or you can split a longer phrase between inhalation and exhalation or put a phrase on both.  Here is an example: Divine love dwell within me. May your love radiate through me.

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:

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 96Psalm 97Psalm 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:

“Psalm 32 is the second of the seven traditional penitential psalms (see Psalms 6; 38; 51; 130; 143). It is not itself a penitential prayer in which confession of sin is made. It is instead a psalm in which the practice of penitence is taught as a lesson. …. In Psalm 32 the lesson is based on a case of experience reported in verses 3-5 where the psalmist tells about the torment he suffered when he was silent and the forgiveness he received when he acknowledged his sin to the LORD.” Mays p. 145

“Confession is the knocking to which the door opens, the seeking that finds, the asking that receives. Confession of sin to God is confession of faith in God. It is the action of trust that God is a God who keeps covenant (v10b). It is language about God as well as self. If we say we have no sin, we not only deceive ourselves but we make him a liar, who is faithful and just and will forgive or sins (1 John 1:8-10). Faith is not like the horse an ole without understanding (v. 9); faith understand that we are sinners and God is gracious.” Mays p. 147

“By defining happiness in terms of forgiveness, Psalm 32 functions as an important check against any tendency to misunderstand Psalm 1. That is, to be righteous is not a matter of being sinless but a matter of being forgiven, of being open to God’s instruction (Ps. 1:2; see 32:8-9), and of trusting God rather than self (v. 10); see Ps 2:12).” NIB p. 392

“Psalm 32 is an impetus and a resource to study sin. It also suggests how to begin to combat it and rectify it: by forthright confession of sin, acceptance of the grace of God, and the humble dependence on God’s steadfast love rather than on human initiative and ingenuity.” NIB p. 395

“This psalm is a piece of very good psychology about the burdens we carry within us, our unforgiven sins. When we don’t face our faults, our problems, our weakness, our angers, our sense of inadequacy–worse, when we blame them on others, or deny them, or to be perfect, or become defensive–we refuse to accept ourselves. Every doctor and psychologist in the country sees the effect of act in their offices every day. We all have things we need to forgive in ourselves of face in ourselves. We have things we know we ought to ask forgiveness for from someone else, but pride and stubbornness hold us back. These things become a barrier between us and the community, a hot stone in the pit of the stomach, a block to real happiness. And nothing is going to get better until we face them. Forgiveness occurs when we don’t need to hold a grudge anymore: when we are strong enough to be independent of whatever, whoever it was that so ruthlessly uncovered the need in us. Forgiveness is not the problem; it’s living till it comes that taxes all the strength we have. Some people think that forgiveness is incomplete until things are just as they were before. But the truth is that after great hurt, things are never what they were before: they can only be better or nothing at all. Both of which are acceptable states of life. “Life is an adventure in forgiveness,” Norman Cousins said. You will, in other words, have lots of opportunity to practice. Don’t wait too long to start or life will have gone by before you ever lived it.” Chittister pp. 87-89

“The inability to forgive another almost certainly arises out of an inability to forgive ourselves. When we refuse to give ourselves permission to be anything but perfect–as if failure did not bring its own lessons in life–we certainly are not able to forgive anyone else.” Chittister p. 90

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.

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