From Pastor Kenny's Desk
July 29, 2018
I will extol you, my God, my Ruler,
and I will bless your Name forever and ever!
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your Name forever and ever!
Great you are, Yhwh, and greatly to be praised;
your greatness is unfathomable.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your mighty deeds;
they’ll speak of the splendor
of your glorious majesty,
and I will meditate on your wondrous acts.
They’ll discourse of the power
of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They’ll celebrate the fame
of your abundant goodness,
and I will joyfully sing of your justice.
Yhwh, you are gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
Yhwh, you are good to all
and compassionate toward all your creatures.
All your creatures will praise you, Yhwh,
and your holy people will bless you.
They will tell of the glory of your reign
and speak of your strength.
You make known to all humankind
your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your reign.
Your reign is a reign for all the ages,
and your dominion endures
from generation to generation.
You lift up those who are falling
and raise up those who are oppressed.
The eyes of all look to you in hope,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Yhwh, you are just in all your ways
and loving toward all that you have created.
You are near to all who call upon you,
all who call upon you in truth.
You fulfill the desires of those who revere you;
you hear their cry and save them.
You watch over all who love you, Yhwh,
but you’ll destroy all who are corrupt.
My mouth will speak your praise, Yhwh,
and may all creation bless your holy Name
forever and ever! ~ Psalm 145:10-18
Interpreting and understanding the poetry of the Psalms can sometimes feel like swimming against a flowing mountain stream. With each arm stroke the current carries you somewhere else and it can seem as if you are going nowhere or perhaps even going backward.
Reading Psalm 145 may seem easy at first and rather straightforward. Yet, the longer you meditate on it and allow your imagination to swim against the currents that exist in these verses, the more demanding the journey becomes. Simple answers are rarely sufficient as they carry us downstream toward our destination of discernment. The hope of discovering something about the love and will of God, or how to live as God’s people, or learning something about the presence of God in the everyday experiences of life may seem vague … the harder we strike the water the more it seems we are either in the place where we first began or have been taken somewhere we never planned and imagined we’d go to.
The reality and awesomeness of God's presence, God's activity in the cosmos, the world, and in our human experiences is more than we can completely comprehend or perhaps even discern ... yet we can know something. Maybe that is part of the power of God within the words of poetry in the Psalms … it’s as if they carry an ability to change our thinking if we allow their fast-moving waters to embrace and carry us along in their currents.
Perhaps fully understanding the Psalms isn't really a straight-forward exercise or a task to be completed quickly. Maybe engaging the Psalms is an invitation to contemplation … to let the water carry us where it will, rather than swimming against it. To be carried by the flood, tossed about by the waves, and finding rest in whirlpools may be as important as we consider our next moves. Maybe the Psalm provides an invitation to stop trying to figure things out … strategically planning each step so clearly and precisely … somehow letting the word-based waters embrace us … giving us courage … allowing them and God to impact our being bringing with them new positive growth, changes and differences to our lives. Maybe it is an opportunity for giving our conscience thoughts, ideas and assumptions over to the tugs and gentle nudges that a Psalm can provide … allowing a different perspective and experience of God and God’s call on our lives to envelope us in a new way.
Can we be open to the movement of God in our lives by asking: what might the Psalmist say about power, what does it means to be human, to have courage, to bring social transformation through social justice and advocacy, and what does it mean to know and experience the reality God’s actions in the world? Psalm 145 brings with it reflections about the activity of God … in our world, the extent of God's powers, and bird's eye view of the relationship between the people of God and God. Psalm 145 is an invitation to reflect on the presence and action of God … in the ordinary, simple every day activity and experiences of our lives.
What does it mean to us … as people of faith in today’s world … to go about our daily activity mindful of the presence of God? What change does that awareness bring, if any? What might it mean for MCC Richmond to reflect not on the past … the things we have done and no longer do … but instead of what God is doing now … within the lives of each other and the life and ministry of our church? How might MCC Richmond be transformed by a greater recognition of the presence of God in spaces set aside for worship, in our meeting rooms where sometimes conversations can be heated and hot? How might the grind of work be transformed into spaces where the actions and presence of God might be discerned?
Psalm 145 is often referred to as a psalm of praise to God. True ... but it seems that the Psalm could also serve to be a reminder for us of the attributes of God. In a way it is a reminder to the people of God who the God is that they praise. The people of God are involved in a mutual relationship with a God who is beyond measure, a wonder worker who is active in the world, good to all, just and authentic in all things, grace-filled and compassionate, slow to anger and loves freely, compassionate toward all, and intimately concerned with the welfare of people in whatever circumstance they may find themselves.
Our words cannot adequately define and capture every aspect of God or provide a complete picture of the essence of God, but poetry can stimulate our imaginations to provide glimpses and snippets of the Divine.
Maybe what the Psalmist's words suggest is not unlike seeing something and trying to describe it to someone who is blind. What does the color blue mean to someone who has never seen it? How can movement be described? Birds have their own flight patterns and each carry a different blur of action in flight. The reality of the color or of the birds feathers in flight are as certain as sure as one can discern them through the wonder of eyesight … and are invisible to those who cannot. Blindness takes many forms … just not in eyesight. Might the words of the Psalms bring a new image, understanding and experience of the Holy One … one we have never seen or imagined before.
All that lives … all living creatures … are an act of God's grace. All that experiences life is an act of God's presence. From the smallest insect to the greatest blue whale there is a witness of God’s care, concern and a witness to God’s creative and sustaining grace for all.
Praise, blessing, and exaltation blend in Psalm 145. All three streams touching to make a wider and stronger river so their meeting is hard to miss. It is our human response to the activity of God in our lives and in the world … it breaks open like a flower to the effects of sun and water. It cannot be easily stopped ... it must be spoken. May God’s praise always be on our lips and in our creative thinking. Thanks be to God!