Proper 19 2020
Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name…
We use this word often…bless, blessing; God bless you when a sneeze is heard.
You are such a blessing to me! But what does it mean? According to the thesaurus on my computer it means a lot of other verbs: to praise, to make holy, to give thanks for something, and many other definitions. To bless the Lord in this particular Psalm
has the focus that we bless God for the many attributes we find in God. God is the one who forgives and heals; God has kept this writer from harm and given back that blessing. But God also judges in favor of the righteous one as well as bestowing mercy.
This is a song that intones more blessings to God than we normally offer. For to this writer, God is all things. All goodness to all persons in need in all places by all of creation with all of God’s very being. And the psalmist is offering the same back to God.
I believe in this time in our lives we need this psalm more than ever. In the midst of death and uncertainty, as we question whether tomorrow will come, our blessing back to God, though not insuring survival, is our way of turning our hearts and minds to goodness not evil. We, along with this writer, give testimony to God’s character.
Which is what Miriam and Moses sang after the Israelites crossed to dry ground.
A song of praise to God safety had been achieved through God’s intervention and intention. Think on the path of this tribe fleeing from the Egyptians; alone in a desert they did not know commanded by a leader who was formerly of the family of their captors. Finding themselves on the shores of a body of water they could not cross by themselves with elderly and children, loaded down with all their earthly possessions.
Unable to go forward and unwilling to go back. No wonder this song is so powerful!
For this tribe of the descendants of Jacob had just achieved the unthinkable and unimaginable. They escaped their enemies, and are now finding freedom not known
for generations. Blessing indeed! This is not the God of wrath we seem to find in other places throughout the Hebrew Scripture. This is the God of compassion and mercy.
And is that not the God we pray to? The God present with the dying and the suffering.
The God who gives wisdom to first responders, nurses, doctors, care-givers. God’s goodness known no bounds and forgiveness is immeasurable. This is not cheap forgiveness but a call for our obedience and our praise. That kind of forgiveness was absent in the slave that was forgiven but could not offer the same to another. This is not God! God forgives all our sin and heals all our infirmities. It may not seem that way in this time especially among those of us who ask for healing every day. God may heal our bodies but maybe more importantly God longs to heal our souls to keep our lives from being wasted. When our souls are healed and filled with prayers of blessing
then we can pray this psalm.
The story is told of a woman undergoing chemotherapy, slowly losing her hair. She still determined to be grateful for each day so every morning when she awoke her first thought was ‘this is going to be a wonderful day!’ One morning looking in the mirror she discovered she only had three hairs left on her head. So she braided those three hairs
thinking how pretty it looked. The next day she looked again in the mirror only to discover she had two hairs. So she parted her two hairs down the middle. The next morning she had only one hair and put that one hair in a pony tail. The next morning she awoke to find she had no hair at all. Her gratefulness was expansive as she now did not have to worry about doing anything with her hair!
Can we not find ways to bless God as this woman did? No matter our situation in life
there are ways to bless God no matter what, when, where or how.
What we may very well discover in this Psalm is a way to bless God when life seems unfair. A song of gratefulness from our hearts for incomprehensible goodness and an excess of grace. Such love demands our all even as God gives all. No strings attached except words of blessing and a heart filled with gratefulness for such love.