1 Hallelujah! 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 my being.
2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, *
for there is no help in them.
3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth, *
and in that day their thoughts perish.
4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! *
whose hope is in the LORD their God;
5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;*
who keeps his promise for ever;
6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, *
and food to those who hunger.
7 The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; *
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
8 The LORD loves the righteous; the LORD cares for the stranger; *
he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
9 The LORD shall reign for ever, *
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah!
This Psalm is a simple hymn expressing trust in God. While the Psalmist begins with a shout of praise (vs. 1), there is an immediate turn to remind us not to put our trust in "rulers" (vss. 2-3). The Common English Bible is even more blunt than the translation in the Prayer Book: "Don't trust leaders; don't trust any human beings - there's no saving help with them! Their breath leaves them, then they go back to the ground. On that very same day, their plans die too."
The remainder of the Psalm evokes a genuine trust in God and paints a picture of what the world would be like infused with the loving kindness of God. The very Creator of heaven and earth is the one who brings justice to the oppressed, feeds the hungry, frees the prisoner, restores sight to the blind, lifts up the fallen, cares for the unwanted and even welcomes the stranger.
For us, that is the God we know and love in Jesus Christ. God begins the restoration of the material world by uniting a portion of the divine in the material world. This must then spread outward so that we - the Body of Christ - extend the incarnation into the world. This is the incarnational principle. The basis for this principle in our Christian life is the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. The incarnational principle affirms the sacredness of individual human persons as products of creation and the focus of redemption. If you and I are filled with the love of the incarnate Christ, we must see the marks of Christ in all people, in all creatures and in creation itself. As Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) cries in his poem "
As Kingfishers Catch Fire
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
Chríst -- for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
The incarnation principle changes the way we Christians are called to look at the world. For it is in acting to bring justice to the oppressed, feed the hungry, free the prisoner, restore sight to the blind, lift up the fallen, care for the unwanted and welcomes the stranger that we are acting for and with God.
I can cry with the Psalmist: "Hallelujah! 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 my being." I can do so because Christ is alive. That is my song of thanksgiving: "Christ is alive!" God still calls me to live into the Commonwealth of holy justice and peace. In Brian A. Wren's words from an Easter hymn (see
The Hymnal 1982, #182):
Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, shall never die.
Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.
Not throned above, remotely high,
untouched, unmoved by human pains,
but daily, in the midst of life,
our Savior with the Father reigns.
In every insult, rift, and war
where color, scorn or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.
Women and men, in age and youth,
can feel the Spirit, hear the call,
and find the way, the life, the truth,
revealed in Jesus, freed for all.
Christ is alive, and comes to bring
good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring
with joy, with justice, love, and praise.
I pray we all have a blessed Thanksgiving as we look to a holy and expectant Advent.
The Right Reverend Robert L. Fitzpatrick
The Episcopal Diocese of Ha