The Rev. Joanne Martindale
First Presbyterian Church Napa
Newsletter #8
July 27, 2020

 
Dear Friends – 
 
Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
    for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted,
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.
 
Psalm 147
 
 
I continue to marvel at all the instances of scripture that draw our attention to God’s compassionate and tender love for us, for each of us. This means for all of us, because there is not a single person, a single being, that is outside of God’s knowledge and compassion. Do we realize that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? (Romans 8) 
 
Do we realize that there is nothing we can do to separate anyone else from the love of God in Christ Jesus? We simply cannot remove God’s love from anyone. It is not possible. To bind up wounds, as we read above, is to be tenderly holding someone’s arm, perhaps, while the cut is cleaned and gauze wrapped around it. We worship the God who, according to one translation, counts the stars  by name .
 
And yet, there are moments when we write people off. The other political party, the other genders, the other race, the people on the other side of town, the people who vote, the people who don’t vote.  Et cetera . We write other people off,  but God counts everyone by name .
 
Obviously, this is irrespective of sin. The psalms of praise that end the book of Psalms are not written in a sinless time, so the wounds that God is binding up belong to imperfect brokenhearted people. For instance, the same David who called for God’s judgment on the wicked for the oppression they brought to the nation, and to those who are poor and vulnerable, is the same David who had Bathsheeba taken from her home, forced into his bedroom, and then had her husband killed. 
 
It’s not that our sin doesn’t matter – it matters very much indeed or God in scripture wouldn’t get so mad about it, book after book. Grace, though, if we don’t take it cheaply, opens our eyes for ways to be better, to treat others better, to confess. This is what David does in Psalm 51. He knows he sins against God when he sins against others, because it is God who 
 
… heals the brokenhearted,
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
 
It gives me courage to get up, dust myself off, and keep going when I am reminded that God knows me by name, knows my wounds and sorrows. There is nothing I can do – despite my frailty or sin – that will separate me from God’s love. So, when I try to do what I can in the world to help those who are oppressed by racism or poverty, I do so remembering that they and I, all together, are beloved by God.
 
I bet John Lewis preached on this psalm at some point. He was an ordained Baptist minister – article after article will tell you his first congregation was the family chickens. He loved God his whole life, even after being arrested scores of times, even after being beaten and gassed crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge. His confidence in God’s justice was unquenchable, even though he did not see it, yet, for Black people. 
 
To offer this psalm of praise to God might make us think about how we might join God in such love for human beings, love for all creation. In the Hebrew, we get a vivid image when we read the lines
 
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.
 
The image turns on the words translated as “lifts,” “downtrodden,” “casts,” and “ground,” which paint a picture of God literally picking up from the dirt those who have been beaten down by those with more power – perhaps we imagine God dusting them off, talking to them by name, and taking a look at their wounds to see what needed tending.
 
To see who God is revealed to us, is to see who God wants us to be if we are to be God’s people. To see God revealed to us shows us what God means by keeping covenant – and if we are following God, we are keeping God’s covenant. If we are keeping covenant with God who loves us so fiercely and tenderly, then we are joining God in loving fiercely and tenderly. We are binding up the wounds of the brokenhearted and we are calling people by name because each of them counts to God.
 
It’s not just that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. It’s that there is also nothing in all creation that can separate us from  loving  God and our neighbors as ourselves in Christ Jesus. How could it be even possible? For God who cares compassionately for us no matter our sin? To whom we are always beloved? It doesn’t mean we’re not cast down to the ground when we oppress others – it means that even if we are because we have taken advantage of the vulnerable, we’re still loved by God. 
 
I suppose the question, then, is are we still faithful and do we really still love God if we were to continue taking advantage of others. Asking ourselves this question might be the way God lifts us up, dusts us off, calls us by name, binds our wounds, so that we’re ready to join God in doing the very same thing in the world around us. 
 
Amazing, isn’t it?, that God’s call to justice is grounded in praise, not condemnation. As though it’s life-giving to lift others up.
 
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
    for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting…
…He heals the brokenhearted,
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
 
Church News: 
Thank you to the exceptional Church Clean Up Team: Mike and Robbin Gibson, Julie Worthington, Clare Le Brun, Jeannie Fenderson, David Crawford and Sandra & Russ Vough. They cleaned and picked weeds on the church Preschool grounds and surrounding area so the Preschool will be able to open on August 5 to our “little ones.” It looks beautiful!
 
We have hired an exceptional Office Manager, Fransine, and will tell you more about her when her paperwork and livescan are complete. Stay tuned for a biography and picture coming soon! 
 
Many blessings,

Pastor Joanne
First Presbyterian Church of Napa
1333 Third Street
Napa CA 94559

Online: fpcnapa.org
Phone: 707.224.8693