"Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God's steadfast love endures forever." - Psalm 107:1
Lately, I've been quoting that at the top of every worship service I lead. It's the very first thing I say.
Before the call to worship, before the opening music, before the reminder to fill out the pew pad or the announcement about the next movie in the summer social justice film series, I need to remind myself (and anyone else who cares to listen) that God is good and God's steadfast love endures forever.
Although I don't use the same verse as a benediction, these are also the last words we need to hear. Aw, the heck with it, they are the ONLY words we need to hear! It's an executive summary of everything the Bible has to say, forwards and backwards: God's love is forever. God is good. Give thanks.
Without reading the rest of the psalm we might think the psalmist was some kind of cheery optimist, looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. If so, check out the next 43 verses and discover the psalmist's well-honed sense that life is not all butterflies and unicorns. Against that plain and obvious truth, verses 1 and 43 are acts of divine dissent, ritualized resistance, polemics of protest and prescriptions for praise. The world is not always good, enduring or loving. But God is.
Today we might re-write Psalm 107 to read:
"As the people denounce economic inequity and environmental degradation
And rail against the rollback of the voting rights act;
When God's children lament ongoing racial profiling
In a culture of violence aided and abetted by senseless ‘Stand Your Ground' laws
They cry to the Lord, their deliverer, because God is good and God's steadfast love endures forever.
Thanks be to God."
Holy God, in the middle of everything life throws at us, may we never forget to give you thanks and praise because you are good and your steadfast love endures forever.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.