St. Giles’ Cathedral
Thursday 23rd April 2020
Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.
Let us worship God.
1Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
4He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
7Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.
8He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.
9He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
10His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Amen
John Donne once preached that, “The Psalms are the manna of the church” referring to the miraculous bread which God provides to feed the children of Israel during their desert wandering. It is a beautiful image to reflect upon – the sense that God has provided us with spiritual sustenance for our journey of faith in the form of the psalms. The history of the place of the psalms in the daily worship of the Church would attest to the truth of Donne’s claim.
In our psalm for today some of the richness of the content of these love poems to God can be seen. The image of God in Psalm 147 is of God who acts with mercy toward his creation. This mercy is seen in both a personal and a cosmic sense. In v. 3 God is praised because God ‘heals the brokenhearted/ and binds up their wounds.’ And in the very next verse God is praised for God ‘determines the number of stars;/ he gives to all of them their names.’
The quality of mercy is one which we often overlook in reflecting on our relationship with God and is one we need to hold tight to in these uncertain days.
The poet Denise Levertov offers a corrective to that as she recognises mercy as a powerful aspect of God’s love – pulsating, life-giving, cleansing:
To live in the mercy of God.
To feel vibrate the enraptured
waterfall flinging itself down
unabating down and down….
Thus not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world.
Let us pray.
God of love,
your Son brought healing to the sick
and hope to the despairing.
We lift up to you all who are suffering from illness
and those who are mourning the loss of one they loved.
Bless those who share with Christ
a healing ministry,
researchers, doctors, nurses, care home workers.
Use their sympathy and skill
for the relief of suffering,
the conquest of disease
and the restoration of health
in our land and in our world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Dieterich Buxtehude Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort BuxWV 185