1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Unusually for politicians, President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) was known for being laconic, a man of few words. One Sunday he was caught by a reporter while leaving church. The reporter asked, “What was the sermon about?” “Sin,” Silent Cal replied. “Well, what did he say?” the reporter followed up. “He’s against it,” said the president while walking away. We are in a moment when our world seems fixated upon sin, or at least fixated upon some sins. But that has always been the case; we conveniently fixate upon some sins and not others. Our newsfeeds and televisions have brought us stories of protests and outrage triggered by the video-recorded deaths of people at the hands of the police. This did not start with BLM and the actions of these officers, however. Prior to the BLM movement there was MeToo with villains like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. Even Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion-fame got caught up in that. Like Silent Cal’s preacher, I too join those who disapprove of sin. Unfortunately, our culture lacks a proper vocabulary for this moment. As a word, “Sin” has fallen out of use outside the dessert menu where the triple chocolate confection might be “sinfully good.” But it is not only the vocabulary of sin which has been lost, it is also the vocabulary of redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Perhaps they sound to “churchy” or “preachy” to some. But they also speak of a way to deal with the profound sins of this world. Read this psalm again. In fact, pick up your Bible and read the whole psalm, it goes on for another 10 verses. As you do, notice what God does in all of this. God deals with the sins of people. He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns us with love and mercy, satisfies, and renews. That is just vss. 3-5. The real kicker for me comes in verse 12. Notice what he does with your sins and mine. He removes them from us, as far as the east is from the west. That happened in a cross when Jesus gathered up the sins of the world and paid their brutal price. He did that to my sins. He did that to everyone’s sins. The world needs our words for this. The psalm ends with heavenly beings taking up the praise of God for his great work, his ministers in all his dominions. Lastly the soul of the Psalmist joins them anew. Our words for this world start with our own status as sinners forgiven, people whose sins have been removed. That status as sinner forgiven gives us a word to say to this moment. I encourage you to speak it.
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,