Verse 1: The psalm begins and ends with the word Alleluia, which resembles the sounds a baby makes. Before God everything we say is just a kind of babbling. It has also been said that Alleluia is the word we're privy to that angels use. Lovely. Alleluia means: Praise the Lord!
Native Americans found Christianity to be a too complicated religion of paper and books. One priest has written, "You can't understand Catholicism unless you understand metaphysics." What's that? Alleluia = Praise the Lord! = O God, how wonderful you are!
Verses 2-3: God rebuilds Jerusalem, gathers Israel and heals the brokenhearted. Notice the psalmist doesnt' say time heals, but rather, God heals. God heals the abandonment, the betrayal, the profound disappointment. Do I believe it? And then, when healed and put back together, I can be a source of compassion for others because I understand.
Verse 4: The stars! I love this verse. But it's not about movie-stars, rather, the stars we see in the photograph above. God knows how many there are and even has given them names. Can you imagine? Of course not. It's too wonderful! And if God knows the names of the stars, how much more God knows my name.
Verse 5: There's no limit to God's wisdom - God's thoughts, God's creative imagination, God's insights and knowledge. God's wisdom gives us everything in awesome variety - so many kinds of weather, plants, animals, landscapes, foods. Last fall I was in a fancy supermarket that had more than two dozen different kinds of apples displayed. Wow! But often we disdain human diversity. Why is that?
Verse 6: God casts the wicked to the ground. Really? I can battle discouragement when I hear about or see evil-doers seemingly win the day or get the upper hand. I'll accept this verse on faith but I don't like it when Christians offer up pious talk and worn out cliches to let God off the hook. But I'll do what I can to help God lift up the lowly.
Verse 7: Sing to the Lord...make music. Good question for Catholics in church: Do you sing out? Or do you stand there, not even picking up the hymnal, hoping it'll be over in one verse. Shame on the priest who doesn't join in. Do you ever find yourself singing a hymn while you wait, or while you work? "But I don't have a good voice," Catholics say. What? Did God give voices only to Protestants? You've got the voice God gave you - delight God by using it.
Verses 8-10: God gives clouds, rain, soil, grasses and all the green plants for the animals and for us. So yeah, "climate change" should be a major concern for the Christian. It's not a political issue, it's a religious/spiritual issue. How we insult God by ignoring the care of God's planet-gift!
Verse 11: God's not impressed with the strength of horses (ancient war machines) and all the ways humans pump up themselves. Some people might not like it because it gets in the way of their politic, but we've got to let this verse speak to our 21st century. God isn't impressed with military budgets and parades, uniforms, tanks, drones, rockets, jets, poisons and gasses, landmines, "mother-of-all-bombs, nuclear ramp up. Let's hear it again: God isn't impressed...
Verse 12: But the Lord takes pleasure. You know what's pleasing to God? When we allow our minds to be changed about someone: him, her, them.
Verses 13,14: God blesses the children. Do we? Why is it so hard for a country that thinks of itself as 'the greatest' to be sure that every child is welcomed and loved? We can do anything and everything we set our national mind to. Then why are there children who live in desperate poverty, who can't read, who are lost and abandoned, who never see a doctor, who are ravaged by sex trafficking, who are shot dead on the street or in their classrooms?
Verse 15: God sets up peace on the borders. Is it just national borders? Aren't there also the borders of our minds, hearts, indeed our whole lives? I want there to be peace on those borders when I encounter any person.
Verse 16: God's word runs swiftly. God is relational, continually reaching into our world with a sense of urgency born of love.
Verses 17-19: And God sends his word to melt the hoarfrost, the hail, the wintry winds and ice. But to think only in terms of the weather is to miss the bigger point. Some human hearts are in a deep freeze, a personal ice age. Oh God, it isn't just the winter airplane wings that need to be de-iced....
Verses 20,21: We live in the long line of faith-relatives. Here Jacob is brought to mind, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah. And we're reminded that God has not done these things for any other nation. Hmm. All religions want us to think they're special to God, that they have a corner on the truth or they alone know what is pleasing to God. But when we start thinking and acting that way, bloodshed and flame pick up their heads.