Resting in Love
I want to tear this page out of the Bible and carry it with me all the time. If all we had was this psalm, I would be content. Yes, I know there is nothing here explicitly about Mary and Jesus, about the angels and animals of Christmas. But this psalm has everything we need. It has all that is essential, all that is necessary, all that is eternal and true and good.
It has at its core, the greatness and grandeur of God. It is filled with the goodness and kindness of God. It is surrounded by the love of God.
What else do we need!
Let’s fill our soul today with this psalm. Let’s immerse our mind in this psalm. Let’s clothe ourselves with the words of this psalm that we might worship God, love our neighbor, and grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s lay down the burdens of religion and the hardships of life and rest in this psalm today.
Let’s put aside the challenges of health and the anxieties of our existence and rest in this psalm.
Let’s forget the failures of our past and the uncertainties of our future and rest in this psalm.
Today, right now, here for these few moments, let’s rest in the love of God.
Here, described in this psalm, is the God I believe exists.
Here is the God I worship. Here is the God who created the heavens and the earth. Here is the God who sent Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Here is the God we celebrate today.
The Lord is compassionate. Verse 8
The Lord is filled with unfailing love.
The Lord is good to everyone. Verse 9
The Lord showers compassion on all the creatures.
The Lord keeps every promise. Verse 13
The Lord is gracious in every deed.
The Lord helps the fallen. Verse 14
The Lord gives everyone food when they need it.
The Lord is righteousness in every single thing. Verse 17.
The Lord is filled with kindness.
The Lord is close to all who call upon God. Verse 18.
This is the God we worship today.
This is the holy and eternal one we love.
This is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. We say with the Psalmist I will praise the Lord. Forever and ever. May everyone on earth bless the holy name of the Lord.
This kind of religion fills the earth with music, with meaning, with mercy.
This kind of religion spreads grace, and gratitude, and service from the East to the West, for the North to the South.
This kind of religion inspires people to protect this good earth, to provide for family and friends, to prove a neighbor to every single person on this planet, especially the refugee, the stranger, and the immigrant.
Jesus is the embodiment of this religion of love, grace, and mercy.
He told the story of the traveler who tended to the victim of violence lying in the ditch. He told another story of the child who rebelled, left for a life of wild and careless living, but encountered the love of God and family when he returned home. Finally, he told the story of the day when we cross over to the other side and God greets the people, Blessed are you because people were hungry and you fed them, like I do; people were incarcerated like I was, and you tried to console them; people were strangers to you, and you treated them like friends anyway.
Jesus rested in the love of God, and so can we.
Some people are reading a different part of the Bible when they go to worship.
They read the command to slaughter the people in the Promise Land. They read the instruction to stone the man who dishonors his parents. They read the plea for God to smash the babies of their enemies as revenge for this or that.
This pulls a shadow over the sunshine of God’s love; this drowns out the symphony of mercy that fills the heavens and the earth; this cuts down the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nation.
Worse of all, this creates a religion that pushes many people to cynicism and skepticism and a spirit of denunciation.
This week one person posted this on Facebook:
Religion can be soul destroying. Even the progressive kind…. The greatest indictment against religion is that every single person I’ve ever met who has left it is happier, more whole, more empowered and healthier…. For many, the church is an abuser that they gave one too many chances.
That religion is a religion I want to leave as well. That religion is reading the wrong text, confessing the wrong creed, and believing too much that is not true of God at all.
Psalm 145 gives us the God in whom we live and move and have our being. I know of no text of scripture that is nearer to the words and deeds of Jesus that this one.
Psalm 145 is the document that needs to be posted on the wall of every schoolhouse; carried in every purse or wallet; posted as the screen saver for every laptop; and scheduled to play as the morning wake-up call for every alarm clock. This is the celebration of the God of grace and the Lord of mercy. This is the God of the Hebrews that is also the God of the Christians.
Take down the ten commandments with its religion of oughtness. Put away that framed text that is a roll call of regulations. Hide that list of dos and don’ts and replace it with this poem to the love and kindness of God.
It is this poem and not the commandments that is summed up in the basic guideline we learned in the first class at church: Be ye kind, one to another.
I asked you once if you had hanging in your home any verse of scripture. I have somewhere the copper plate with these words embossed; “Christ died for our sins.” That is not bad. But I have this one: “He who has a merry heart has a continual feast.”
What is in your home, on your wall?
Consider making it the Lord’s Prayer, or the 23rd psalm, or the vision at the end of the Bible, of the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nation.
Maybe you want to make it the hymn text that we read in the Letter to the Philippians, the one introduced by this admonition: Let this mind be in your, the one that was also in Jesus Christ, who though in the form of God did not think equality with God something to be clung too.
Or take one of the three parables of Jesus I referenced a moment ago: the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, or the great judgment day.
Any of these Christian texts and stories pick up the theme of Psalm 145. The Lord is close to all who call out to God.
This tension between the religion of oughtness and the religion of grace is the story line of the great French novel, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. It is personified, on the one hand, by police inspector Javert. He is trying to catch the thief. He chases him across the years and all over France. He is the law, and the law is not mocked, he famously sings. On the other hand, there is the priest, who responds to theft by Jean Valjean with kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.
It is the religion of the priest and not the legalism of the inspector that transforms Jean Valjean. It makes this story a modern version of everything true and beautiful in the Bible.
But we can also find the narrative of this psalm in the story of nativity.
When the psalm declares, The eyes of all look to you in hope, we can tell the story of the astrologists from the East, from Persia, or even China. They were looking into the heavens for a sign of hope. God gave them a great star to guide them to the little one in a manager.
The psalm sings this words: “Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness.” That was fulfilled last weekend when the traveling choir from Ukraine sang in Carnegie Hall in New York City. They sang, the Carol of the Bells. The tune was composed by a Ukrainian musician. The words read like this:
Oh, how they pound, Raising the sound O'er hill and dale, Telling their tale:
Joyf'ly they ring While people sing Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas. Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas
When the psalm predicts, as it does in verse 6, Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue, it is good for us to remember that the story of the nativity is fashioned by the hands of millions of people around the world. I am referring to the nativity sets.
At the Methodist conference center on our island, St. Simons Island, there is a large collection of nativity sets. They are from all around the world; hundreds of them. Who made these? Artisans, some full of faith, others full of doubt, many ignorant of the Bible account. All they have is the camel made out of wood, or the manager fashioned from rock, or the angel woven with fabric. When you buy a nativity set, you are putting in the hands of a faraway person the story of Jesus, the story of the God of love, the story of Christmas.
Put out your nativity set. Play the music. Tell the story. Frame this psalm and hang it on the doorframe of your home. Today, and every day, and especially this season of the year, let us rest in this love:
You, O Lord are merciful and compassionate and slow to anger.
You, O Lord, are righteous in everything and filled with kindness.
I will praise you, O Lord.
May everyone on earth bless your holy name forever and ever.