3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry. (NRSV)
Do not trust mortals, rulers, institutions, because they are not permanent (and not God). But trust in God, not only because God is everlasting, but because of God’s character.
We are tempted to trust people (and sometimes that’s appropriate) but we must realize that even well-intentioned people will disappoint us. And institutions that feel as though they have been around forever are not actually permanent. It is tempting to trust the church because it seems to have been around for ages and will likely be around long after anyone reading these words is long gone. But longevity is not the reason to trust, the character of the church must be taken into consideration as well.
Does the church reflect the character of God? If the answer is yes, but with some flaws, then it is up to the church to address those flaws in meaningful ways. It’s not possible to have a perfect church because it is made up of imperfect people. Just as in Psalm 72, even the righteous will have flaws and we will need renewal.
Advent is a time for examining the character of God who came to dwell with us and to examine ourselves. Are we a reflection of God’s character? Are we participating in the reign of God?
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 year C. Advent of 2022 year A.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections.
Year A Psalms
1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 122, 2nd Sunday in Advent Psalm 72, 3rd Sunday in Advent Psalm 146, 4th Sunday in Advent Psalm 80, Christmas Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, 1st Sunday after Christmas Psalm 148, New Year Psalm 8, Epiphany Psalm 72, 1st Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 40, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 27, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 15, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 112, 6th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 119, Transfiguration Sunday Psalm 2 or Psalm 99.
Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 32, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 121, 3rdSunday in Lent Psalm 95, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 23, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 130, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 118 or Psalm 31.
Holy Week: Monday Psalm 36, Tuesday Psalm 71, Wednesday Psalm 70, Thursday Psalm 116, Friday Psalm 22, Saturday Psalm 31.
Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 16, 3rd Sunday of Easter Psalm 116, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 31, 6th Sunday of Easter Psalm 66, Ascension of the Lord Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 68, Pentecost Psalm 104.
1st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 33 or Psalm 50, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 116 or Psalm 100, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 86 or Psalm 69, 5thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 13 or Psalm 89, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 45 or Psalm 145, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 65, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139 or Psalm 86, 9th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 119, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 17 or Psalm 145, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 85, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 133 or Psalm 67, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 124 or Psalm 138, 14thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 26, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 149 or Psalm 119, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 114 or Psalm 103, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 145, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 78 or Psalm 25, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 19 or Psalm 80, 20th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 106 or Psalm 23, 21stSunday after Pentecost Psalm 99 or Psalm 96, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 90 or Psalm 1, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 107 or Psalm 43, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 78 or Psalm 70, 25th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 123 or Psalm 90, 26th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 100 or Psalm 95.
Sources and notes:
“Psalms 146-150, the final Hallel of the Psalter, each begin and end with “Praise the LORD” and together form the closing doxology of book 5 and the Psalter as a whole. The group follows the movement observed in Psalm 145, from an individual hymn (Ps 146), to a community hymn (Ps 147) to a creation psalm (Ps 148) to exuberant praise (Pss 149-150).” W p. 303
“James L. Mays calls Psalm 146 a “sung lesson,” one in which those who recite it along with those who hear it teach and are taught that God is the eternal sovereign over the world. The words of Psalm 146 have as much to say to those of us who live in the twenty-first-century world as they did to the ancient Israelites. Earthly rulers will return to their earthen states, but the creator God continues to care and provide for the oppressed, the strangers, and the orphans and widows. How does God accomplish such care? Those who believe that God is sovereign must be the hands and feet, the voice, and the eyes and ears of God in this world and act with mind and will and soul (inmost being) to carry out God’s care and provision for those whom Brueggemann and Bellinger call the “socially vulnerable and powerless”. Wp. 306
“The hymn does not say that leaders are unnecessary or not useful. It does warn against trusting them for salvation. Hope based on what passes away is doomed for disappointment.” Mays p. 440
“But permanence and power alone are not the grounds for trust. Trust is also founded on character, so the LORD’s character is epitomized in a phrase (v. 6c): Not only does the LORD rule forever but in his rule he keeps the faith forever. Then verses 7-9 render the LORD’s character by reciting the characteristic activities by which the LORD keeps faith.” Mays p. 441
“The temptation to put ultimate trust for salvation in human leaders and institutions is perennial. In Psalm 146, praise becomes a critique of such misplaced trust and a proclamation of the only right use of trust — in God who keeps faith!” Mays p. 441
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.