Psalm 146 RSV
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have being.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
When his breath departs he returns to his earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners,
he upholds the widow and the fatherless;
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
thy God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!
The opening words of the psalmist’s hymn of joy – “Praise the Lord…I will praise the Lord as long as I live…” – leap off the page, and with sustained and grateful pulse, ends with “The Lord will reign for ever…Praise the Lord!”
What makes this psalmist, seemingly, want to dance? First, humans, even the greatest, are ultimately unreliable sources of help: “Put not your trust in princes…” for “when his breath departs he returns/to his earth/on that very day his plans perish.” Rather, continues this enthusiastic writer, compare man’s fallible wisdom to what God has done – God, “Who made heaven and earth…who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry…sets the prisoners free…upholds the widow and the fatherless.” Note that the root of the word “enthusiastic” is “en theos” or suffused with God.
I have spent a career trying to improve the life chances of vulnerable youth and families and the frail, mistrusting communities in which many live. I have helped incubate programs in cities across the nation, and have helped craft policies on the state and federal levels. But it strikes me that I have often forgotten what must undergird these policies and programs. Forgetting this, my scratchings are frail. I must constantly remind myself of my limited knowledge and that under policy and program must lie a theology that sustains and propels.
“Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob:” Yes, and again yes!
Lord let me be daily amazed, daily in awe at your creation, grateful for life, breath to sing your praises. Sustain in me a heart to sense my brother and sister, eyes to see their needs, feet to walk with them, and arms to embrace them and to never let go. Amen.