I’ve witnessed Christians working together to glorify God and to serve others this week. This morning, about sixteen members of our congregation welcomed over seventy families who needed food and helped meet their needs at our monthly Food Pantry. Tomorrow, we’re hosting a Friends and Family Day as we seek to increase the number of people we’re reaching with the good news of God’s saving grace. We’re focusing this year on renewing hope. Many people suffer damage to their dreams daily; some experience shocking losses that challenge their belief systems. Whether through abuse at the hands of someone they love, disease that saps their savings rapidly because of expensive treatment, or witnessing horrible events, they wonder whether they can continue to believe in God or whether to continue living. Sometimes their suffering increases because well-meaning bystanders criticize their handling of the crisis or condemn them for experiencing it – “surely their sin led to this.” I’ve met people who struggle to hear the message of Jesus because of such interaction.
In the midst of the prayer that is Psalm 145 occur these words: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (verse 8 and 9). These words differ markedly from a perspective that judges quickly and harshly. While we must remember that God calls us to be holy as he is holy, we absolutely must recall that he calls us to forgive as he forgives us, and to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us (Matthew 6:13,14; Romans 15). The possibility of forgiveness for acts or attitudes we may never have thought we would do, yet discovered ourselves doing, explains the praise of God throughout the prayer of Psalm 145:
“All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 8 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (verses 8-13).
The prayer explains the presence of hope in those who have sinned and among those who have know great loss. God revives and invigorates those who question whether they can go on. He renews hope for the hopeless; he forgives those we might consider unforgiveable.
O Lord, our God, open our eyes to your glory. May we glimpse the greatness of your love, and grasp that you can forgive, that you can create a way to hope where there seems to be none. Help us to love and to forgive. Strengthen our resolve to be your person each day. May we respond to your glory and your forgiving love with loving holiness that reflects your own holiness. Thank you for loving us when we were unlovable. May we love as you love. May we value what you value. May we forgive as you forgive. In Jesus’ name, Amen.