Have you ever had a sleepless night? So it was for me last night. I feel like I am in a fog. And now faced with singing a solo at James Strider’s funeral. Ugh.
It came as a great comfort to turn to our lectionary Psalm for the day. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.” So states Psalm 103. It is one of my favorites. Its focus is on God, and all his mighty works.
God has forgiven all our iniquity. God has worked vindication and justice. God redeemed our lives from the Pit.
Even more so, the Lord is merciful and gracious – slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. This steadfast love quickly becomes the centerpiece of the rest of the psalm, and it expands with images of wind and flourishing fields, and that God’s steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting.
Even when life seems to fall apart, we can trust in the infinite presence of God.
The Psalms were aids to worship. They also walk through the gamut of human emotions. Despite desolation and despair, which the Israelites were experts in, time and again they turned to God in faithfulness and hope. The Psalms are a showcase of how to honor God and keep the faith.
What I like most about Psalm 103 is its expansiveness. When I am feeling gratitude to God, it is so easy to focus on only the immediate things in life. For instance, on Easter Sunday, just a couple days ago, it was easy to focus on the empty cross and the empty tomb. But was that it? Not if you read Psalm 103! It marches through all of history, giving thanks for things past and present. It is a journey of graciousness and hope.
It also looks to the future, a sure sign of hope, and a help for when things turn sour. “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting….The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”
Past, present, and future. And in all, we are claimed by the steadfast love.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. Sometimes it is a statement of reassurance. Other times it is a plea for help – Lord, please reassure me that you do indeed hold us in the palm of your hand.