Today’s Scripture: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. (NRSV)
When I read the first verse of Psalm 107, the one word that leaps off the page at me is steadfast. I have a great appreciation, indeed almost reverence for that word as it is used to define God’s love. The person who first brought this to my mind was Wayne Oates.
I knew Wayne as a fellow church member in Louisville, KY. In addition to being a noted author, professor, and preacher, he was considered a pioneer in the pastoral care movement. Not everyone who knew him realized what a wordsmith he was. I discovered this early in our friendship and had great fun using old archaic words I’d heard as a child in the homes of my country relatives. He could sprinkle these words in his speech as quickly as other words in his vast theological and philosophical vocabulary.
On occasions when Wayne would preach, he would often read a verse which included the word steadfast. He could even pronounce steadfast with an unusual slowness and weightiness that caused the hearer to sense its importance. He would then admonish the congregation to examine and appreciate this unchanging nature of God’s love. Then he would point out that each of us should strive for that same steadfastness in our relationship to God and in our relationships to each other. What expansive theology he taught us from one little word!
Steadfast is certainly not a modern, 21st century word. How often do we use it, if ever? Our vocabulary is laced with words like twitter, instagram, blog, defriend and other social media words that reflect our impulsive lifestyle. Our society encourages quick, faddish behavior. What is great one year is quickly out-of-style the next. It is easy for relationships to emulate this same pattern.
The poet in Psalm 107 is calling for his people who have finally returned from their long exile away from their home to remember God’s steadfast love. His call for thanksgiving is set following great trouble and difficulty. In our own changing culture we have God’s unchanging nature to count on. God’s love was manifest to us through the sending of God’s Son. The season of Lent offers us time to reflect on the meaning of God’s steadfast love.