Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103 whose verses this morning remind us of God’s munificence.
Munificent – it’s a wonderful word whose Latin roots literally mean gift-making, abundant generosity.
Praying this morning, I realize that I can’t even begin to number the gifts God has given me.
But like Moses in today’s first reading, I want to visit God in the sacred tent of prayer – learning, thanking and awakening to the Mercy in my life.
… and, like Moses, to invite God into every moment, to ask God to keep company with me on my journey:
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O LORD, do come along in our company.
Poetry: Bearing the Light – Denise Levertov
Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, bears the light beneath the rifted clouds — the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.
Music: In the Garden – written by C. Austin Miles in 1912. Miles wrote nearly 400 hymns, this one the most famous.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103 which paints an incomprehensible God in the soft colors of kindness and mercy.
Writers as early as the Genesis story have worked to put a face on God.
Artists have done the same.
And of course, the face is human because that is the only one we know. In our first reading, we see the Lord reflecting, turning options over in his mind, keeping secrets, and allowing himself to be cajoled. It’s a very human conception of the Divine – because it’s the best we can do with our only human paint brush.
Reading today’s Genesis verses, I hear their counterpoint in the elegant hymn from Romans:
O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” “Who has first given to God, that God should repay him?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11: 33-36
How incalculably gracious of God to show us the Divine Heart in the human face and story of Jesus Christ.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Colossians 1 15-16
In Christ, we find the true human face of God’s Mercy. As we deepen in prayer and imitation of Jesus, that Face becomes visible in us.
With the psalmist, we offer praise and thanks for:
The Lord is kind and merciful, dealing with us not according to our sins, nor requiting us according to our crimes. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is God’s kindness toward those who live in holy awe.
Psalm 103: 10-11
Poetry: Creature of God – Jessica Powers
That God stands tall, incomprehensible, infinite and immutable and free I know. Yet more I marvel as His call trickles and thunders down through space to me.
that from His far eternities He shouts to me, one small inconsequence of day. I kneel down in the vastness of His love, cover myself with creaturehood and pray.
God likes me covered with my creaturehood and with my limits spread across His face He likes to see me lifting to his eyes even the wretchedness that dropped his grace.
I make no guess what greatness took me in. I only know, and relish it as good, that I am gathered more to God’s embrace the more I greet him through my creaturehood.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, a well-known and loved hymn of praise. It is a fitting psalm for today’s feast which unites us with Mary as we pray.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all the benefits of the Lord.
Mary lived much of her life in the actual presence of God, in the person of Jesus her Son. And no doubt, she received this holy proximity as a surpassing gift.
But even more importantly, Mary lived her whole life in total awareness of God – before and after Jesus was present with her.
There is a practice many of us learned as children called “Blessing the Hour”. The prayer goes like this:
Let us remember the holy presence of God Let us adore God’s Divine Majesty.
Sometimes a classmate was assigned to watch the clock and ring a little bell to trigger our prayer. We needed a reminder, every hour, that our whole life is held in the Breath of God.
But Mary always remembered. She lived so completely within God’s promise of mercy that she became the vessel of its accomplishment.
My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant,
and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed.
For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
Your mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear you.
You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit;
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
while you have sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy
—the promise you made to our ancestors―
to Sarah and Abraham and their decendants forever.
So today, like Mary, let us remember the holy Presence of God in our every moment –
the Lord who is kind and merciful.
and pardons all our iniquities,
and heals all our ills
and redeems our life from destruction,
and crowns us with kindness and compassion
Poetry: John O’Donohue, ‘The Annunciation’, in Conamara Blues
Cast from afar before the stones were born And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour, The words have waited for the hunger in her To become the silence where they could form. The day’s last light frames her by the window, A young woman with distance in her gaze, She could never imagine the surprise That is hovering over her life now. The sentence awakens like a raven, Fluttering and dark, opening her heart To nest the voice that first whispered the earth From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean. She offers to mother the shadow’s child; Her untouched life becoming wild inside.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103 which, set between our two readings, reminds us that the Ascension has occurred and that:
The Lord has established a throne in heaven.
Therefore, we are in a New Creation and thus invoke one of the most beautiful Creation psalms.
Psalm 103 invites us to stand at the edge of First Creation as it breathes in the spirit of God. With the angels and all the intricate works of the Lord, we inhale Divinity. We quicken with the “ruach” of God, (Hebrew for “breath”.)
What we read in our translations of the Bible as “spirit”, “wind” or “breath” are translated from one Hebrew word, ruach. Walter Brueggemann says; “The Bible struggles to find adequate vocabulary to speak about and name this unutterable, irresistible, undomesticated force that surges into history to liberate, heal, remake, and transform. We are left with this code term, ruach, to speak about what we know but cannot say.” Ruach is the wind that parted the waters and created dry land, it is the very breath that God breathed into humans in our creation, it was this spirit that parted the seas and allowed the people to escape from slavery in Egypt, it is the same spirit that Jesus claims and empowers the early church in Acts. This ruach is active throughout our sacred stories.
As we approach the feast of the great Inspiration of the Spirit, let us bless and praise our God for outpouring every form of infinite life upon us. May our humble prayer make room in us for ever deeper grace.
With all Creation, let us prepare our hearts to welcome the illuminating fire of the Spirit’s gifts and fruits to be renewed in us this Pentecost:
Bless the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who do the bidding of God, and hearken to the voice of the word of the Lord.
Bless the Lord, all you hosts, you ministers who do the will of God.
Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, in all places of the dominion of the Lord; bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103: 20-22
Poetry: Breathe on me, Breath of God – Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, the best known and best loved of the psalms of praise.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless God’s holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.
Blessing the Lord is easy for me today.
My life is filled with those “benefits” – happiness, love, friends, and celebration.
My dear brother and sister-in-law are visiting from Tennessee after nearly a two year hiatus.
My precious grandniece is being baptized today.
And my Sister in community is celebrating her 75th birthday. (And, yes, I did just about find time to write this blog! 🙂
Psalm 103 reminds us that in both joyful and sorrowful days, God’s Presence is our abiding blessing. And for this, we can always bless God:
In a 2016 Facebook post (a precursor of the blog) for this day, I wrote:
Today, in Mercy, we humbly praise God for being present in every moment of our lives. We lift our hands in praise for the joys that have revealed God’s beauty, and for the sorrows that have revealed God’s compassion. May we reverently live our thanks by our kindness to one another.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, an effusive canticle on God’s unbounded Mercy.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
A sufficient prayer today would be to thank God for our experiences of this overflowing mercy. But our Gospel tells us there is more to it. There is a response required of us.
If you’re into social media like Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed the popular meme “BeLike”. (A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that becomes a fad and spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture, often carrying a symbolic meaning.) Here is an example of the #BeLike meme posted by the NJ State Police.
If our psalmist and evangelist were writing a meme for today’s readings, it might look like this:
That’s the message. I’m spending my prayer time with just that today.
Poetry: The Prodigal’s Mother Speaks to God by Allison Frank
When he returned a second time,
the straps of his sandals broken,
his robe stained with wine,
it was not as easy to forgive.
By then his father
was long gone himself,
leaving me with my other son, the sullen one
whose anger is the instrument he tunes
from good morning on.
There’s no room for a man
in the womb.
But when I saw my youngest coming from far off,
so small he seemed, a kid
unsteady on its legs.
what will you do? I thought,
remembering when he learned to walk.
Shape shifter! It’s like looking through water—
the heat bends, it blurs everything: brush, precipice.
A shambles between us.