PM Psalm 103
Psalm 103 (NRSV:)
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.
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 on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103 is one of my favorite psalms, which also explains why the Taizé song “Bless the Lord, my soul” is one of my favorites.
It’s because this Psalm reminds me that all the Psalms are songs–and in this case, the singer understands what it feels like to be forgiven.
One of the amazing things about songs is they give us the ability to use words that we can’t say without music. Now, this cuts both ways. I’ve been singing “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe,” for weeks, and I have absolutely no intention whatsoever to be handing out my phone number to anyone I just met. Yet I find myself not just singing it, but dancing around singing it to my dogs (which is even more ridiculous–what would my dogs do with my phone number?)
But if a song can make us do silly things like that, it certainly has value to help us say the things we ought to be saying but can’t.
When’s the last time any of us have thanked God for the sorts of things Psalm 103 covers? When’s the last we…say…um…
…thanked God for all of who we are, including the difficult and unlikeable parts?
…praised the tornado, the hurricane, the blizzard for reminding us that we are not in charge?
…for the finite span of a human life?
…for our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe?
Yeah, those are generally not on my prayer list most days either.
Talking to God is not the only place words fail us. Praising the deepest, most intimate parts of our relationships with other people isn’t exactly a snap, either.
But, I believe it’s why singing in community is important, and as a friend recently reminded me, why hymn singing is an important part of theological formation. I hadn’t thought of it that way until she reminded me, and I had put that together with my recent jag of singing “Call Me Maybe.” I suddenly got a new glimpse into why priests can be a bit particular about hymns. Singing puts a subconscious theology into our heads–one that may or may not match the direction of where we go as a body of believers. It’s part of why, as beautiful as choirs can sound, it’s important to sing enough hymns that people don’t feel intimidated to join in.
In short, it’s a new way to have just met God, and this is crazy, but we might feel more inclined to give over our psychological phone numbers and asked to be called. Maybe.
What are the songs that open new possibilities in your relationship with God?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid