Psalm 138: Sing with the Angels

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2020

From 21st Sunday – 2017:
Today, in Mercy, we pray with the second reading, one of the magnificent Pauline hymns. The words wrap us in awed and humble worship of the mysterious majesty of God revealed to us in Christ. May we find it today in our own worship and prayer. To God be glory forever.
( An extra: Yes, a Christmas song again … but so beautiful an interpretation of our second reading.)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 138, a hymn of thanksgiving and hope.  

As usual with the Sunday readings, a common cord ties the passages together. The obvious one today is how God entrusts power to us for the establishment of God’s milieu in Creation.

Psalm 138 carries, as well, a more subtle but infinitely important thread: the heart of that power is always Divine Kindness – Mercy.  This fact is what generates our deep gratitude.

I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.


So power, to be like God’s Power, must always be exercised in kindness. What would the world be like if only that were true! What would our own daily lives be like?

Every one of us has tremendous power whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it is physical or positional power. But more often, it is the power of:
our words or our silence
our acknowledgment or indifference
our presence or absence
our support or our resistance.


We choose how to use our power –
either for or against,
either with or over others.


Psalm 138 tells us how God chooses to use power.

LORD, you are exalted, yet the lowly you see,
and the proud you know from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.

Our exalted and powerful God is kind, merciful. God loves the humble and lowly, but keeps distance from the proud, from those who lord it over others. This is the infinite wisdom and power of God and the mysteriously sacred way by which we are redeemed.

Psalm 138, just as our reading from Romans, is a song of amazed joy for God’s unsearchable wisdom and mercy.


Poem: Kindness – Naomi Shihab Nye


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.


Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.


Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.


Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Music: The Fragrance of Christ – sung by Alma de Rojas

Refrain: Lord, may our prayer rise like incense in your sight.
May this place be filled with the fragrance of Christ.

1. I will thank you, Lord, with all of my heart.
You have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels, I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

2. I will thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and love,
beyond all my hopes and dreams.
On the day that I called, you answered; you gave life to the strength of my soul.

3. All who live on earth shall give you thanks
when they hear the words of your voice, and all shall sing of your ways:
“How great is the glory of God!”

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