Showing posts from July, 2018

Psalm 125 - Do good, O Lord

A Song of Ascents.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, so that the righteous might not stretch out their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers. Peace be upon Israel!
Psalm 125 (NRSV)
Proper 18, Year B, Sunday between September 4 and September 10

"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people..."

It is literally true. The ancient City of David sits several hundred feet lower than the surrounding hills in all directions. It may contribute to the sense of the Old City and Temple being at the center of the world. It certainly has contributed to it…

Psalm 146 - Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!


Psalm 146 (NRSV)
3rd Sunday in Advent, Year A, verses 5-10
Proper 5, Year C, …

Psalm 15 - Who may abide?

O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15 (NRSV)
4th Sunday after Epiphany, Year A
Proper 11, Sunday between July 17 and July 23, Year C
Proper 17, Sunday between August 28 and September 3, Year B

Would that it be so!

Here we have a problem. It does not take much insight to know that the person uttering these words is having a real, current, immediate problem with the slanderers, the evildoers, the finger-pointers, the moneylenders and the bribe-takers.

"O Lord, who may abide in…

Psalm 34 - He keeps all their bones

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.
He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 34 (NRSV)
Proper 14, Year B, verses 1-8, Sunday between August 7 and August 13
Proper 15, Year B, verses 9-14, Sunday between August 14 and August 20
Proper 16, Year B, verses 15-22, Sunday between August 21 and August 28
Proper 25, Year B, verses 1-8, (19-22), Sunday between October 23 and October 29
All Sa…

Psalm 34 - Which of you desires life?

O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
Psalm 34 (NRSV)
Proper 14, Year B, verses 1-8, Sunday between August 7 and August 13
Proper 15, Year B, verses 9-14, Sunday between August 14 and August 20
Proper 16, Year B, verses 15-22, Sunday between August 21 and August 28
Proper 25, Year B, verses 1-8, (19-22), Sunday between October 23 and October 29
All Saints, Year A, verse 1-10, 22, Sunday November 1, or the 1st Sunday in November

These verses speak of the link between fear of the Lord and right action, and the vision that obedience to God's will leads life.

Who among you wants to live a long, good…

Psalm 34 - Taste and see

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.
Psalm 34 (NRSV)
Proper 14, Year B, verses 1-8, Sunday between August 7 and August 13
Proper 15, Year B, verses 9-14, Sunday between August 14 and August 20
Proper 16, Year B, verses 15-22, Sunday between August 21 and August 28
Proper 25, Year B, verses 1-8, (19-22), Sunday between October 23 and October 29
All Saints, Year A, verse 1-10, 22, Sunday November 1, or the 1st Sunday …

Psalm 124 - We have escaped like a bird

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone the raging waters.
Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124 (NRSV)
19th Sunday of Pentecost, Year B

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, then they would have swallowed us up alive. The flood would have swept us away, the raging waters would have gone over us.

We are fortunate if we have never had an experience of deliverance, if we have never been in fear for our lives or wellbeing. But that is not the experience …

Psalm 26 - My foot stands on level ground

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.
I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.
Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

. Psalm 26 (NRSV)
Proper 17, Year A, verses 1-8, Sund…

Psalm 126 - Like those who dream

Jump to end of psalm
1) When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
2)Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
3) The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
4) Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5) May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
6) Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
Psalm 126: (NRSV*)
21st Sunday of Pentecost, Year B
Sunday between October 23 and October 29 inclusive

When I was young, we had family friends with a player piano. When we visited, we would often pull out the old player rolls, thread them into the piano, start pedaling and sing along. Probably my favorite was an old American hymn whose refrain was drawn from this psalm.

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in t…

Psalm 91 - You have made the Lord your refuge

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
Psalm 91:9-16 (NRSV)
1st Sunday of Lent, Year C, verses 1-2, 9-16
Proper 21, Sunday between September 25 and October 1, Year C, verses 1-6, 14-16

"You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in His shadow for life, say to the Lord 'My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!'"…

Psalm 84 - How lovely is your dwelling place

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is…

Psalm 19 - The heavens are telling

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens God has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be d…

Psalm 93 - Robed in majesty

The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.
He has established the world; it shall never be moved;
your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the Lord!
Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.
Psalm 93 (NRSV)
Ascension of the Lord, Years A, B, and C
Christ the King, Year B

Majesty is not part of our ordinary experience. Few of us spend time in royal courts. If we are fortunate, we may know "regal people," those who carry themselves with dignity, confidence, and humility, who walk through life self-aware (and not self-deluded) of their worth as a human being.

Sadly, too many thrones are occupied by rulers who wear clothes that…

Psalm 111 - Whole-hearted thanks

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever...
Psalm 111:1-2, 7-8a (NRSV)
4th Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
Proper 15, Year B, Sunday between August 14 and August 20
Proper 23, Year C, Sunday between October 9 and October 15

This psalm lets the believer declare their "attitude of gratitude" for God's majesty and great works.

Take note that this psalm is spoken in the company of the congregation. The palms are not extemporaneous prayers, but are literary compositions, meant to be re-read and shared. It is believed that most if not all were sung in worship.

Psalm 111 serves as a mini-catechism for the faith of Israel, and can serve as well for those who stand in the Judaic tradition.
Great …

Psalm 137 - If I do not remember you

1) By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!’
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!
Psalm 137 (NRSV)
Not included in the Revised Common Lectionary.

The 137th psalm is one of the most important psalms, yet it is often treated like a bastard stepchild. Acknowledged, but…

Psalm 45 - I address my verses to the king

My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;
you love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions...
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-7 (NRSV)
Proper 9, Year A, verses 10-17, Sunday between July 3 and July 9
Proper 17, Year B, verses 1-2, 6-9, Sunday between August 28 and September 3

The psalm is over the top. Read all the verses. It is Song of Songs territory.

You can readily see it as rooted in the Ancient Near East culture, particularly that of princely houses and courts. And what ruler, whether of nation or home, is not in some manner pleased by extravagent praise?

The psalm does come with an editorial superscript: "To the…

Psalm 54 - Surely God is my helper

Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.
For the insolent have risen against me, the ruthless seek my life; they do not set God before them.
But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil. In your faithfulness, put an end to them.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For God has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
Psalm 54: (NRSV, edited)
18th Sunday of Pentecost, Year B

If we don't have anyone actively seeking to kill us, we may take the psalm's language as metaphorical. And so we can. But we should not lose sight of two facts. There are real enemies, and throughout the world, thousands of people can pray this psalm today and the words be literally true.

It is also true that, even when the insolent who are set against us a…

Psalm 85 – Righteousness and peace will kiss

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for she will speak peace to her people,
to her faithful, to those who turn to her in their hearts.
Surely God’s salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its incr…

Psalm 23 - Surely

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Psalm 23, NRSV
4th Sunday of Lent, Year A
4th Sunday of Easter
Proper 11, Year B, Sunday between July 17 and July 23
Proper 23, Year A, Sunday between October 9 and October 15

If you know any psalm, it is this one. Words which have spoken for centuries to people in need of comfort and confidence and hope.

There is nothing I can say that adds to what is already hallowed by generations and countless millions of those…

Psalm 145 - Every day I will bless you

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145 (NRSV)
Proper 9, Year A, verses 8-14. Sunday between July 3 and July 9
Proper 12, Year B, verses 10-18. Sunday between July 24 and July 30
Proper 13, Year A, verses 8-9, 14-21. Sunday between Ju…

Psalm 51 - Create in me

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me....
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:1-3, 9-12, NRSV
11th Sunday of Pentecost, Year B, verses 1-12

This was probably the first psalm I encountered, because our church sung these words almost every Sunday: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." I can sing the hallowed words today with the same notes of the old red hymnal. The repetition worked them deep into me.

The psalm touches many points that can resonate with the reader/hearer.

Psalm 130 - In God’s word I hope

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God's word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
Psalm 130 (NRSV)
5th Sunday of Lent, year A
Proper 5, Year B, Sunday between June 5 and June 11
Proper 8, Year B, Sunday between June 26 and July 2
Proper 14, Year B, Proper 14, Sunday between August 7 and August 13

Sometimes "the depths" is when you're having a bad day. And sometimes the depths are really deep.

Wherever your depths are, don't bother measuring how deep. Just cry to the Lor…

Psalm 78 - The Lord rained down on them manna

[The people] did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law.
They forgot what he had done, and the miracles that he had shown them.
Yet God commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
Psalm 78:10-11, 23-24 (NRSV)
11th Sunday of Pentecost, Year B, verses 23-29

Some psalms are cast as theological history lessons, recapping the history of the people with a theological lesson. This psalm explicitly teaches and asks the reader/hearer to pay attention: Give ear, O my people, to my teaching… things that our ancestors have told us.

It casts the wonders of God’s deeds against the people’s forgetting God’s deeds of power and their stubborn refusal to walk according to God’s commandments. The exodus through the sea, water in the desert, and still they complained and refused to trust God’s power and provision.

Maybe they had reason. It’s tough to trust when you are hungry and we…

Psalm 14 - All have gone astray

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?
There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
Psalm 14 (NRSV)
Proper 12, Year B, Sunday between July 24 and July 30
Proper 19, Year C, Sunday between September 11 and September 17

This short psalm invokes the holy name of the Lord four times in only seven verses. You can tell that the ps…

Psalm 89 - I have found my servant David

I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him;
my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him....
My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’...
If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances,
if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges;
but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant...
Psalm 89: various (NRSV)
4th Sunday of Advent, year B, verses 1-4,19-26
10th Sunday of Pentecost, Year B, verses 20-37

What a man he must have been! I imagine him as a hybrid of Brad Pitt, Bill Clinton, and Hulk Hogan. As a shepherd boy, he …