Being Grateful!

A Reflection on Psalm 103.1-8 by Canon Rob, 21st August,10th Sunday after Trinity.

Central to a Christian’s life is worship and among the variety of Services we can attend, the Eucharist (Holy Communion) is the most important. The word “Eucharist” means “to give thanks” or “to praise” and Psalm 30 is considered by scholars to be one of the greatest hymns of praise and joy in the whole Book of Psalms. Those who include this psalm in their Eucharist this morning will be reminded of many of the things to thank God for:“his benefits” as verse 2 calls them. As we read through the verses set for today, we can reflect upon what those benefits are. God forgives us, he heals us, he gives life after death, offers us his love and compassion, fills us with good things even as we get older (See verse 8 and the picture below), judges justly and honestly and offers justice to those who are oppressed, reveals himself to us, is “slow to anger” and is “full of compassion, mercy” and “great kindness.” It’s not surprising that those who can say “Amen” (I agree) to all of these will want to say a ONE BIG THANK YOU (as on BBC’s ‘One Show’) to God!! Wow!!

From an early age many of us are taught the importance of saying ‘thank you’ when, for example, we receive a gift for our birthday or when someone helps us or is kind to us. Saying thank you to someone can encourage them to continue the good work they are doing. Being grateful also helps us to not take something, or someone, for granted. How easily that can happen! These verses of Psalm 103 can therefore help each of us a great deal as we make time to reflect upon them, not least because psychologists agree that recalling things to be grateful for each day can help our mental well-being. The more we do that, the more fulfilling we find life and that is something which Jesus said he came on earth to do. In John’s Gospel in the New Testament, Jesus is having a conversation about shepherds and sheep during which he says, “I have come in order that you may have life – life in all its fullness. I am the good shepherd who is willing to die for his sheep.” [See John Chapter 10, verses 7-10]

Being thankful each day is a state of mind, as much as it is a way of living a life of faith. We will all go through experiences in life which drag us down.Yet there are many examples of people who, even when they are suffering or approaching death remain positive and grateful for the good things that happen. You don’t have to be a Christian to maintain this attitude! It is nonetheless a blessing and one which all of us can practise. Reflecting on the verses of this morning’s psalm is a good place to start but if you feel that it is all rather simplistic, or even trite, may I suggest that you read the entire psalm? The author, like all the authors of the psalms, is a realist and he knows first hand what it is to suffer hardships. Not for nothing are verses 13-17 often used during funeral services. In Psalm 103, praise and thanksgiving to God have emerged through a period of loss or pain. It could also be [see verses 3, 8 and 10] that the writer has carried a burden of guilt but something has happened which makes him realise that God has forgiven him. To experience forgiveness is to be given the chance to start again, to make a fresh start! And that is something to be really grateful for.

The psalm is very personal, beginning with the words, “Bless, the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” But reference to Moses in verse 7 means that it could be used during communal worship and then it relates to the community, the whole people of God. If so, it would be much the same as when we sing a hymn, like “Praise my soul, the King of Heaven”- a favourite at weddings. Being personally grateful can lead to doing things with others, for the benefit of others, like food banks run by volunteers throughout the country.

And so through all the length of days thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise within thy house for ever.

[Last verse of the hymn, “The King of love my shepherd is.]

Being Grateful! Read More »

Live is His Meaning!

A Reflection on Psalm 50.1-7 by Canon Rob,

7th August, 8th Sunday after Trinity

In his book, “Praying with the Psalms,” Walter Brueggemann reminds his readers that the Book of Common Prayer encourages us to pray together, “for all sorts and conditions of men (and women.)”  He adds, “we are able to pray for others because we share a ‘common lot’” and continues that when we pray for others using the psalms we “speak among them and with them and for them, to express our solidarity in this anguished, joyous human pilgrimage.” When we pray for peace in the world we will remember the war in Ukraine and those who suffer in other countries. As we see the images on our television screens our hearts go out to those in pain. We feel helpless. We will be horrified. We may be in a position to help – perhaps financially or welcoming refugees. Whilst we recognise that we cannot fully comprehend the suffering that others are going through, each of us has experienced suffering and pain. This is the “anguish” about which Walter Brueggemann writes. It isn’t all bleak though as he also refers to joy, which – like anguish – is a common, human experience.

This is helpful background as we reflect on the verses of Psalm 50 set for use in the liturgy today, not least because verse 4 can refer to the whole of humanity and not just to Israel: “[God] calls the heaven above, and the earth, that he may judge his people.” Or, a translation which is more clear, “[God] calls on the heaven and earth to witness his judgement on his people.” (Joseph Gelineau). The idea that God is our judge is not one most of us are comfortable to contemplate. We may recall some of the awful things in the Old Testament which befell the early Jewish community when they turned their backs on God. The Book of Exodus contains many examples for us to ponder! But, as the first picture shows, God’s justice and judgement reveal his mercy and both are about his desire to make us “whole.”

Psalm 50 begins, like the Book of Genesis, with God speaking. His word makes things happen and in verse 2 we understand that he “will not keep silence.” How can he remain silent when he sees human beings acting against his will and destroying each other and harming all that he has made? But he doesn’t see from afar: he is present in his creation. Verse 3 says, “Consuming fire goes out before him and a mighty tempest stirs about him,” both being symbols of his presence and both recalling God’s self-revelation on Mount Sinai. (Deuteronomy 5.4 says, “The Lord spoke with you [Moses] face to face on the mountain out of the fire.” In the previous chapter and verse 24 we read, “For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.”) Here is the God you do not mess with! As we have seen in previous Reflections, he can be angry. Now we read that he can also be jealous! But of what or whom? The answer must surely be for his people: the ones he has saved from slavery in Egypt and the ones who quickly, and more than once, forget what he has done for them and turn away from him.

These verses from Psalm 50 don’t make easy reading but stick with them and reflect upon them, bearing in mind that God our Creator always wants what is best for all that he has made. He may sometimes come across in the Old Testament as a tyrant who becomes furious when he doesn’t get his own way. But his sole motivation is love, because that is what he is and we need to see this, and all of the psalms, in the context in which they were written and not in isolation. Yet I do wonder, as I reflect upon this psalm alongside what we human beings do to each other and this planet today, whether God is as frustrated, even angry, as the author of Psalm 50 believed him to have been. If so, then we must face his justice, judgement and mercy now, at the same time as we believe his desire is always to make us whole.

“Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us your peace.”

Live is His Meaning! Read More »

Scroll to Top