The line that stands out to me in this psalm is that “as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house”. This is a reminder that our relationship with God is not based on our own efforts at moral living, nor how much doctrine we have studied, or what prayers we have prayed. It is God’s mercy and grace.
God’s mercy and grace color our lives. Look at the night sky full of brilliant stars. We are surrounded by empty worlds devoid of life, as far as we can yet see. Yet by mercy on this fragile globe God breathed life forth, in its splendid variety, and included us in that gift of life. Before we were even a glint in our mother’s eye we were thought of with love by our heavenly Parent.
It is God’s mercy that gives us the gifts we inherit from parents and grandparents, of talent, skill, and provision. It is God’s mercy that gives us the resiliency and the resources to draw on that let us overcome the pitfalls and pains of our upbringings so they do not define our lives.
These are gifts that come without our initiation, flowing from a God who always looks at us with eyes of love and has not, nor will ever, see us any other way.
When we come to know God personally it can feel like an accomplishment of ours, the end of a great longing and search. Yet that longing was borne in us through the gifts God scattered on our path before we even were there to embark on it. The searching came in answer to a whispered invitation God placed in the silent shadow places of our souls.
Grace, pure grace, colors all our lives and is the backdrop to our existences.
Interestingly enough even judgment, which so often we Christians tend to think of as the opposite of grace, is depicted in terms of God’s gracious actions in this passage. Judgment is God’s acting to prevent the backbiting, back-stabbing, plotting, crushing under foot of others which fills our lives with pain from becoming the final word on our lives. Ultimately such attitudes and behaviors cannot come crashing into God’s house, but God works to deliver us from them.
The psalmist talks in terms of these forces as outside herself or himself in other people filling her or his life with threat. In reality, though, we know this is not so simple, is it? In all of our lives such forces exist within us, within each person, always at work to create such havoc in our lives from the inside out.
God’s grace is to draw all of us into God’s house, and God’s judgment is to remove all of such forces of havoc and threat from our lives for they have no place through the doors to God’s great home-going.
Different Christians understand how judgment and grace play out with these forces differently. In truth there is not one but many different pictures in Scripture for how it will play out. For me, I imagine that the judgment is less aimed at individuals as at these attitudes and actions that beset us, keeping us from fully tasting, knowing, and living out the grace always available to us in Christ.
After all, we are told in John 3, that the Christ is not sent into the world to condemn the world but so that the world including you and me might be set free to full, abiding life.
Read in this way, this language of judgment is not threat but promise. God’s grace has made a way for each of us to find a place at the fellowship table at God’s great homecoming. God’s grace also means God will not let the forces within us that bring our own ruin & the ruin of others into that great home-coming. Since both are true, we can trust that God is able to, beginning here and now and continuing into the great beyond, to transform us from the inside out into people of peace, of love, of fellowship, of joy. All of us can hope to enter into that unending joy, as we choose to participate in the grace and judgment of God upon our lives, allowing God to cleanse us top to bottom like a momma finding her little boy or girl covered in mud from running in the creek. We will see that day when, through God’s grace and not our efforts, we are dried up and cleansed, and welcomed with all those God loves (and who does God not?) at the family table.
Thank God for that.
May we continue in hope, being transformed and made new by this love.
Your progressive redneck preacher,