Revd Simon H Leigh.
Dear One and All,
We are in the strangest of times and if we are honest it's rather scarey. The Revd Dr. Stephen Dawes, former Chair of the Cornwall District and Canon Theologian at Truro Cathedral wrote a helpful book on Psalm 103 called 'Let us bless the Lord'. I have found this book so helpful and I would like to share some of his insights and my own too.
We'll start with the first 4 verses:
1: Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me , bless his holy name.
2: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits
3: who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases
4: who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.
Dr Dawes, an Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) scholar, sees Psalm 103 as repeating a creedal statement concerning God's 'steadfast love and mercy, righteousness and justice'. It is right then that the Psalmist starts and indeed, finishes the Psalm with the phrase 'Bless the Lord'
It is right too that we should Bless the Lord. In our worship we sing 'Bless the Lord O' my soul (10,000 Reasons) Bless the Lord O' my soul' and likewise, 'Let all that is within me bless the Lord'. H.F Lyte wrote Praise my soul the King of Heaven so that Psalm 103 might be sung-out in God's praise. First then, we praise God remembering - 'whether we live or die we belong to the Lord' ( Rom.14:8 KJV) This is the all-embracing truth that we are created in God's image, we are ensouled, we are born and we die, but we do so in the presence of God. God is to be blessed, for God is holy.
I don't know about you but I don't always feel very holy. In fact quite the opposite. I sometimes feel utterly ashamed; my attitude sometimes is not great and I can be judgmental and occasionally spiritually arrogant. When I first became a Christian it was as though I had a hot-line to God. I knew better and other Christians who didn't think as I did were to be pitied or worse. What a prig!
Psalm 103:2 reminds me that there is an antidote to shame and it is found in 'his benefits'. These benefits or 'goods' are found in the heart of God, for God alone is truly good (Mark 10:18) and in him are found no imperfections, as there is no improvement on perfection. You and I have the potential to improve and that in God's blessing is an antidote to our condition. Our shame can be immersed in God's righteousness, justice, mercy and love. Romans 8 tells us there is no escaping that mercy and love in Christ Jesus. And verse 3 of the Psalm tells us how God forgives our iniquity - Bless the Lord indeed.
'He heals our diseases' How I need to hear how he heals my 'dis-ease'. I listen to the grim statistics on the news. Rising levels of infection worldwide and a rising death toll. I think of family and friends, my church family, my colleagues and their families. I think of the fear and worry worldwide and those who mourn; I feel an overwhelming sense of dis-ease. And yet!
My dis-ease is set in the light of Gethsemane, the panorama of Holy Week and supremely in the death and resurrection of Jesus, for in him all my hope is founded. Bless the Lord. God does not say that we are immune from disease, from hardship, from the time of trial, from mourning or from death. No, these are part and parcel of being human, our condition and imperfection. Nevertheless, in the Lord, whom we bless, is our salvation and that salvation is in love - 'love divine all loves excelling' From what I see on Whatsapp, Facebook, on the news, in my street and in the NHS, the benefits of love are being given and shared and shared still further - a trinity of goods. Bless the Lord, O' my soul!
I'll continue to reflect on Psalm 103 in another session. Stay home, stay safe.
Revd Simon H Leigh.