Appropriate for use on Proper 13A, Proper 12B, Proper 27C, & Independence Day.
on Psalm 145
by April C. Caballero
The Psalms represent a spectrum of sentiments on life and on God, ranging from profound praise to deep anger and doubt. Psalm 145 is considered a Psalm of great praise, falling to the far left of this spectrum, applauding the Creator for their wondrous ordering and providence over all things.
Psalms such as these may oftentimes feel childlike, or at the very least, unrelatable. On the surface, they lack the maturity of a perspective of the world which takes into account hurtful and unjust realities of a life on earth. “You open wide your hand *and satisfy the needs of every living creature” (v.17). We know this to not be necessarily true for all people, at all times. But as Walter Brueggemann says in his Message of the Psalms, “to value fully any psalm, it must be in the context of all of them” (p. 16). And so, Psalm 145 has a rightful place in the gamut of utterances people of faith might lift up to God, [just as sentiments of joy and gratitude have a rightful place in our own lives].
It is the belief of developmental psychologists that a child’s trust in the reliability of life and their surroundings lie, to a large extent, in their being nourished and having the basic necessities of life provided. When a child’s personal world and individual needs are cared for, they know no better than to operate with the assumption that the world in its entirety is cared for.
Later in life, however, our worldview progresses. We experience personal loss, pain, betrayal, and the like. We also become aware of suffering and injustices in our own communities and throughout the world. Life, and in effect God, becomes perceivingly less reliable and less trustworthy.
But how can we, knowing the unfairness and injustice faced by people all over the world, and in our own lives, praise God with the reverence and enthusiasm of Psalm 145? How do we allow ourselves to be thankful, and to offer sincere gratitude for what we have received, while holding close the needs and the inequity of those without.
I suppose, we do it just as the Psalmist did. We give God glory for the good we know to be true. We choose to believe that the human induced suffering of this world does not negate the goodness of creation. And we recognize, that by being nourished and fed, we are placed in a privileged position. What we do with that privilege, is entirely up to us as people of God.
Psalm 145 echoes loudly of God’s role as provider and sustainer. We should be reminded that God chooses to be revealed and known directly through gifts of nourishment for our bodies and souls. And we should call to mind God’s greatest gift of Godself, which came to us in the body and blood of Christ.
In this way, it is suffering which saves us. It is, oddly enough, suffering for which we give God such uninhibited praise.
You open wide your hand,
*and satisfy the desire of every living creature: By Your sacrifice. By Your selflessness. By Your insistence that all people and created things are to be loved and nourished.
Reading Psalms of praise such as these, in light of the life and death of Christ, can open up a new, yet ancient, world of expression for Christians. The sentiments articulated in the Psalms by the people of Israel in their relation to God becomes a voice for our own experiences as people of faith.
And no matter where we fall at the time, on the spectrum of profound praise to anger and doubt toward God, we can utter the words of this particular Psalm with more sincerity because we recognize God’s suffering and sacrifice in caring for the world, and we recognize our own privilege in receiving. And most importantly, we recognize the call to, in turn, offer gifts of nourishment to those without, and work on their behalf, so that the desire of every living thing might indeed be satisfied.