During Lent and Easter of 2018, St. Michael’s parishioners loved participating in The Good Book Club, reading all of the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles together. As the experience drew to a close, we kept getting the same question:
If you want to stay engaged with scripture in the same thoughtful and thorough ways we’ve been practicing together this spring, then get ready for the Summer of Psalms.
What are the Psalms?
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
For nearly 3,000 years, humans have reached out to the divine through the Psalms, the Hebrew Bible’s book of hymns that reveal the gratitude, fear, and longing of the human heart. The poetry of the Psalms expresses the awe at the world’s beauty; offer prayers for hope, justice or solace in the face of suffering; and express the range of human emotions – elation and weariness, joy and despair. (Mark Bussell – White Light Festival)
This summer, join us in reading the Psalms and see how these early songs still resonate with us today.
What’s the plan?
Between May 27 and September 2, we invite you to join St. Michael’s in reading all 150 psalms. That works out to about a psalm or two per day.
How do I discuss them?
There’s no single right answer to this question, but we have a few ideas:
- Read the Psalm(s) together at the dinner table and discuss the reflection question.
- Read the Psalm(s) in the morning and pray or journal about the reflection question.
- Read the Psalms(s) on your commute and share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #SummerPsalmsSMC.
Where do I find them?
We’ll post links to each week’s Summer of Psalms readings and reflection questions, right on this page (shortcut: saintmichaelschurch.org/psalms). Our companions on this journey will be Lincoln Center’s curators of The Psalms Experience, a 2017 multimedia festival featuring the psalm translations of Bible scholar Robert Alter and Norman Fischer paired with photos from the New York Times archive.
If you don’t want to read on your web browser, might we recommend a paper or electronic Bible or Book of Common Prayer app?
Every Bible has the Book of Psalms, usually between Job and Proverbs. If you don’t own a good printed Bible with study notes, we recommend the New Revised Standard Version (New Oxford Annotated or HarperCollins) or the Common English Bible.
Week 3 (June 10-16)
REFLECTION QUESTION: Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God — God calls our creation “very good.” The temptation of humanity is to disbelieve and refuse to accept our innate goodness and the goodness of others. Instead, we think that we must do something else to become like God or become valuable in God’s eyes. (Rev. Michael Himes – Boston College) Consider all the evil effects that flow from not accepting the inherent goodness and dignity of each person.
MONDAY, JUNE 11 PSALM 22
REFLECTION QUESTION: Jesus prayed this Psalm as he experienced loneliness and suffering on the cross. Have you ever felt abandoned by God or someone you love? Offer a prayer using this Psalm or your own language that expresses your honest emotions to God. (Spiritual Formation Bible)
Note on the Psalms and Jesus from the CEB Study Bible: Jesus’ life and teaching show links to the Psalms. His message announces God’s reign (Kingdom) and later Jesus’ suffering and death reflect the Psalmists’ cries for help as a righteous person surrounded by enemies. Psalm 22 becomes Jesus’ words from the cross — a prayer expressing his desire not to suffer and die and yet entrust his life fully to God.
TUESDAY, JUNE 12 PSALM 23
REFLECTION QUESTION: “My cup overflows.” Joy is a way of looking at the world and choosing to see it as God’s world, infused with God’s grace and love. (Paul Brian Campbell, SJ – author at Ignatian Spirituality) Consider this video — how are you choosing joy in your life?
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13 PSALM 24
REFLECTION QUESTION: What aspects of God’s creation speak to you? Perhaps write a verse or two of your own. (Spiritual Formation Bible)
THURSDAY, JUNE 14 PSALM 25
REFLECTION QUESTION: “He leads the lowly in justice.” In what ways does your schedule demand anxious efficiency rather than humble availability to God in every moment? How are you treating others you meet in your busy day? (Spiritual Formation Bible)
REFLECTION QUESTION: “Hope for the Lord.” Waiting is difficult. We tend to think that change should be instantaneous to ourselves, in others, and in our situations. Yet again and again the psalmist tells us to wait, to hope, to trust God. What is causing you to feel anxious or impatient? Offer this to God in prayer. (Spiritual Formation Bible)
REFLECTION QUESTION: “You have turned my dirge to a dance.” How do you express your pain and loneliness to God? What burden are you carrying around needlessly into God’s joy-filled day? (Spiritual Formation Bible)
Week 4 (June 17-23)
SUNDAY, JUNE 17 PSALM 31
REFLECTION QUESTION: “I put my soul in your hands.” ‘As one’s life of prayer deepens, it brings the realization that through all the chances and changes of this life, the ground of the soul is rooted in God’s life.’ (Evelyn Underhill) Where are you on your spiritual journey? Where do you feel at home with God? Where do you feel less close? (Spiritual Formation Bible)
REFLECTION QUESTION: “Then I turned toward my mistakes and shortcomings…confessed that it was so and you forgave me.” Ask yourself: “when have I failed to notice or respond to the needs of others? When have I felt isolated from God or others by my own sin?” Pray the Psalm again, hearing God’s welcome and mercy.
TUESDAY, JUNE 19 PSALM 34
REFLECTION QUESTION: What activities in your life reflect God’s intentions?
Note from CEB Study Bible: The Psalms are testimony to the power of music to take us beyond ourselves so that we are more fully in touch with the presence and purposes of God. Music helps praise, which moves the self deeper towards God in worship and daily life.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20 PSALM 35
REFLECTION QUESTION: Walter Brueggemann says the yearning for vengeance “is not only there in the Psalms, but it is here in the human heart.” What grudges do you hold onto? Offer up your resentments to God in prayer. Note how those vengeful feelings lose power over us when we bring them to God in prayer. (Spiritual Formation Bible)
THURSDAY, JUNE 21 PSALM 36
REFLECTION QUESTION: “You are life’s wellspring, you are the light within the light.” Savor the graces of this week. Where have you encountered God’s wellspring of life? Where do you thirst for more? (Spiritual Formation Bible)
FRIDAY, JUNE 22 PSALM 37
REFLECTION QUESTION: “Take pleasure in the Lord.” What are the desires of your heart? How do you bring these desires to prayer? Consider how God delights in you. (Spiritual Formation Bible)
REFLECTION QUESTION: Sometimes like the Psalmist we feel that our suffering is the result of God’s wrath — in our humanity we associate pain with punishment. But Scripture reminds us that God is ever-present to our pain and loneliness. What speaks to you of God’s tenderness? What might God be saying to you in your loneliness and pain? (Spiritual Formation Bible)
Enjoy the Summer of Psalms!