I love the cadence of the first verse of Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” It speaks of inexplicable joy. Gardening gives me deep satisfaction. It makes me so happy when I harvest crisp cucumbers or admire a table covered with my heirloom tomatoes, Brandywines, Lemon Boys, Cherokees, and a bowl full of mouth popping delicious Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes.
Still, that doesn’t quite measure up. The psalmist is speaking of an even deeper joy, such as the relationship between good friends sharing a special moment. Or I think of the joy felt at the birth of a child and while holding a newborn in your arms. And I think of our two-year-old grandson Oscar who was so thrilled to see us when we came to visit this summer. He’s so secure in his world. Playing with him was so much fun.
Such love goes beyond measuring up to my own or other people’s expectations. Striving to live up to expectations is a trap because we always fall short. We love ourselves and we love each other because God first loved us. We live the love. This is what strong churches do almost instinctively. It’s who we are.
According to the psalmist, our hearts overflow with reciprocal love and thanksgiving as we remember all that God has done. God forgives my sin (those places where I willfully choose that which is destructive and hurtful). God heals me; God redeems my live from the terrors of death; and God crowns me with steadfast love and mercy.
The Hebrew word hesed is translated as “steadfast love.” It’s the kind of tough love that endures all the challenges of a sustained relationship. A relationship is tested and built as we go through hard times together. The same is true for churches. We increasingly find our stride as we go through the ups and downs of life together and learn to rest secure in God’s steadfast love.