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God is Good; All the Time

July 12, 2017
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A brief sermon preached by The Rev. Jeffrey A. Geary
at the White Plains Presbyterian Church
on July 9, 2017

 Psalm 145:8-14

“God is good.
All the time.
And all the time.
God is good.”

This simple call-and-response confession of faith is suitable at all times. I have used it as a call to worship, as a blessing before a meal, as an expression of gratitude. Most recently I heard it spoken in thanksgiving in a hospital room after a doctor delivered good news. God IS good.

But this confession does much more than acknowledge that God is or has been good ‘to us;’ that good things have ‘happened.’ And it is certainly NOT that an all-powerful God has the power and inclination to intervene on our behalf in order to make things work out to our advantage. That’s magic. To say that God is good is, rather, a confession that what is good about God is quite simply God’s goodness.

The wonder of Psalm 145 as a whole is that it not only sings of the power of God, but it carefully defines God’s power. We are accustomed to images of God that use metaphors such as king, warrior, and rock, or that equate God’s power with the uncontrollable strength of natural storms. This psalm draws us away from such images, redefining power so that it undercuts – perhaps even destroys, these images. After beginning the song with expressions of praise at the unsearchable greatness of God and the power of God’s awesome acts, the Psalmist says just what this greatness and these awesome acts are. They are grace, mercy, loving kindness, and goodness to all. The glory of God is the goodness of God, and the majesty of God is the mercy of God. The final definition of divine power is this: God sustains all who fall, raises up all who are bowed down, and nourishes us all.

Over against such a definition of divine power, some might cry out that far too often, those who fall are crushed, those who are bowed down are utterly destroyed, and the nourishment promised is but dust in the mouth of those suffering in famines caused by drought or war. Where is the truth of God’s power over against such evils?

Perhaps the best way for us to deal with this question is to ask ourselves which of the two sets of power images best fits the understanding of God that we see in Jesus Christ? Which definition of power draws the best model to look like? If it is the model of goodness and mercy, then we will seek to live by such a model. By definition, this means that we will be drawn to address the problems of the fallen, the bowed down, the hungry, and all that these images represent. We will seek to enact a world were goodness and mercy trump the forces of destruction. As we do, will it not be the power of God that drives and calls us to such actions? Is God not working through us? Therefore: “My mouth will speak the praise of God, and all flesh will bless God’s holy name forever and ever” (v. 21.)[i]

God’s work IS in our hands; God drives and calls us to express goodness and mercy in all aspects of our lives. So I’d like you to pause and think for a few moments about when you have seen someone show goodness or mercy recently. And then find another person near you in the congregation and share these stories with one another. We’ll sing a verse of Let All Things Now Living (Hymn 37) to call us back together.

We then took some time for sharing and then sang the hymn.

Ancient and contemporary rabbis describe Psalm 145 as the “prayer of all prayers” and the “entryway to the psalms” to be prayed three times each day by the devout. According to the Talmud, “everyone who repeats the Tehillah (which means praises) of David thrice a day can be assured he or she is a child of the world to come.”[ii]

This assurance of being a child of the world to come is not simply because one recites, but in reciting, one learns by heart and is formed by what has been taken in, memorized, and repeated. Those who are thus shaped express their faithfulness through mitzvahs, acts of kindness and justice toward others. And so I invite you this week, to bring this Psalm home with you. To repeat it three times a day, and to begin to notice how this praise of God’s goodness begins to flourish in your daily life, in the ways that you treat others, and in the ways you begin to notice the goodness, justice, and kindness expressed by those you meet.

 

[i] Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Preaching God’s Transforming Justice, Year A. (Westminster John Knox, 2013).

[ii] Robert Cathey, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3 (Westminster John Knox, 2011).

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