May 20, 2012

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)
 The final verse of Psalm 100 recalls the beginning. ‘Make a joyful noise’ says the first stanza and at the end we are encouraged to ‘give thanks to him’, to ‘bless his name’. The Psalmist reminds us that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness endure forever-‘to all generations.’
I love the term ‘steadfast love’ in reference to God. ‘Chesed’ is the Hebrew word translated as steadfast love or loving-kindness, but it is deeper than that. Chesed is unmerited and unmotivated love. That means we cannot force it to happen, like grace, it is a free gift from God! We can share chesed with others in the way we live. 1 John 4:7 advises, “Beloved, let us love on another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.” This is chesed in action. John says we are to become part of the Love of God and share it with those around us.
Not an easy calling, to be sure. And we will fail again and again. However, “in this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Even when we fail, we know that God doesn’t give up on us. We have second and third and fourth and infinite chances to start over because “his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Like this tiny child cradled by her mother, God upholds us-when we are sweet and dependent and when we are defiant and turn our backs. God's love does not fail! Thanks be to God!
Living a life of love and faithfulness based on Psalm 100 is what we’ve been considering since the Sunday after Easter. We’ve considered Who we are celebrating in a life of joyful worship and how that might make a change in who we are by looking at the words of the psalm.
What has the Psalm taught us? Let me share some of the insights I gathered from this psalm:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
            Despite any circumstance, we each have some reason to be joyful and say thank you to God. Sometimes it is resting in God’s peace, at others we may want to shout ‘yippee!’

Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
            Worship has to do with being aware that God is God and that we are safe in God’s arms, no matter what. Therefore, we can sing and be glad.

Know that the Lord is God.
            Recognizing that God is essentially ‘Love’ gives us the serenity to trust that ‘all will be well’, as Julian of Norwich said.

It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
            Despite being like sheep that wander off and want to do our own thing, God doesn’t give up on us. Rather he seeks us out, even if it means hanging off a cliff-or on a cross-to rescue us.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
            Nothing can keep us from God’s love. It surrounds us and opens the way to see God’s face. That’s certainly a call to be thankful!

Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
            So we return full circle to the beginning with a deeper understanding of WHY we are able to joyfully worship our God who is Love-a love that seeks us out and surrounds and upholds us.
Certainly living into Psalm 100 gives us more than enough reason to “Make a joyful noise…and give thanks to him!”

Perhaps you have gained different insights. If so, feel free to share them in a comment.

Next Sunday is not just the middle of Memorial Day weekend-it is Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to the first apostles and which gave them and us the courage to proclaim the greatness of our God in our lives. It is a special day in the life of the church.

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