Thursday, August 9, 2012

Meditation on Psalm 145:9

“The Lord is loving to everyone * and his compassion is over all his works.” Psalm 145:9

Thursday, Proper 13, Morning Prayer, The Daily Office.

This is my favorite verse from the Old Testament. I’m not sure if there is an Old Testament verse which better anticipates the nature of God’s presence in the world as being fully realized in the Lord Jesus Christ. This verse makes clear in my understanding that indeed Jesus came not to “abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill.” It also makes pretty clear to me that indeed if I believe myself to be a disciple, and therefore a servant to the Lord of compassion, then I am obliged in this relationship to model my intentions and ways to loving everyone and to have compassion cover all my works.

Another aspect of this verse which is interesting to me, and causes me to pause, is that there is none of the typical language about the “righteous” and “wicked”, which is typical in describing the Psalmist’s struggles with the notions of rewards for the “righteous” and punishment for the “wicked”. The verse also describes God’s love in the present tense, “is loving”, which is very different form the usual scriptural past-tense of God in history or in the future tense of love as a reward, as in, “the Lord will love the righteous and destroy the wicked”. No, this verse says of the Lord that he is loving to everyone, the righteous and the wicked.

This verse is also a very good definition of God’s quality of grace as being the loving which is always present to everyone. This is a good description too of the “Am-ness” of God’s being as the “is-ness” of God loving everyone, and loving the “everyone” in each of us, the “righteous and wicked”. With this realization, it is easy to see why the Psalms following 145 are hymns of praise and joy. God is loving me, and covering me with the Lord’s compassion, liberating me from my wicked petty self-centered self, so I may be more loving. I need to recognize that the Psalmist just couldn’t help himself and had to mention, one more time in verse 20, God crushing “the wicked”. To which I must say, Jesus didn’t crush or punish “the wicked”, in loving compassion he forgave them, the Lord cast their demons out, and again made them whole.

If we too trust that God is loving us, covering us in compassion made manifest in Jesus, we too can be healed and transformed from our fears and suffering into more loving beings, more loving people. We know this in our love relationships with God and each other. We just sometimes have wake up and to remember it.

We’re not childish; we know that the requirements of healing involve some pain: even pulling the bandage off hurts a little. Sometimes the pain may indeed seem like the agony of an exorcism, or the pain of moving past an addiction, or for a few, it might feel like the pain of being “the wicked” crushed as the Psalmists liked to describe. But if we trust in God’s love, and we trust the love God makes available to us in our communities, we can be “a people healed, restored and renewed”, as a way to build communities for ourselves, our churches, and beyond.

The fourth edition of the Oxford Bible interprets The Book of Common Prayer’s version of verse nine, “…his compassion is over all his works” as “…over all he has made.” I like both as together they point to God’s loving as being active past, present and future with the word “works”, and also indicates God’s constant presence in the whole of creation in the phrase “all he has made.” For me this is a verse of great hope for those who fear the wrath of God rather than trusting in the Good News we know in Jesus: that God is loving us, and compassionately covering us with love, now and always. This verse also creates hope as the predicate for a day when all Christians will consider how we are loving to everyone, in the decisions we make about our lives and our communities, and in whether too, compassion is overseeing our work on earth in the communities of Christianity and the world.

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