Blessing the Poor

By Kristen Gunn

A Reading from Psalms 146 & 147

146

1 Hallelujah!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is no help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.

7 The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

8 The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.

9 The LORD shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
Hallelujah!

147

1 Hallelujah!
How good it is to sing praises to our God!
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2 The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

4 He counts the number of the stars
and calls them all by their names.

5 Great is our LORD and mighty in power;
there is no limit to his wisdom.

6 The LORD lifts up the lowly,
but casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make music to our God upon the harp.

8 He covers the heavens with clouds
and prepares rain for the earth;

9 He makes grass to grow upon the mountains
and green plants to serve mankind.

10 He provides food for flocks and herds
and for the young ravens when they cry.

11 He is not impressed by the might of a horse;
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12 But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who await his gracious favor.

13 Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion;

14 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.

15 He has established peace on your borders;
he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

16 He sends out his command to the earth,
and his word runs very swiftly.

17 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

18 He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;
who can stand against his cold?

19 He sends forth his word and melts them;
he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

20 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

21 He has not done so to any other nation;
to them he has not revealed his judgments.
Hallelujah!

Meditation

I’ve been thinking a lot about poverty lately — no doubt because we’ve been discussing it in the ethics class I’m taking this semester at seminary. But this theme has also resounded in a number of sermons I’ve heard from fellow students and faculty this year. It seems I’m not the only one feeling convicted I could be doing more for God’s beloved, whose needs are going unmet in our area, in our country, and in our world. The God who is love stands among us so close that we could kiss him if we wanted to — and it’s in each other, and particularly in the poor, that we’ll find where to kiss him.

Psalms 146 and 147 lay bare a truth: that riches (or what feels so “normal” to me that it distances me from life’s true precariousness) can so easily obscure the truth that everything that is, is God’s. I and those who go without alike depend on him for wellbeing. Just as surely as he is the source of all that is, he cares for those who hunger and who are subject to all sorts of oppression (146:5-6).

But we share in his glory if he meets their needs through you and me, because we’ve responded to his love by joining him, by “imaging” him in the ways granted to us to be givers, who, like the Son, have received everything we are from the Father. When we care for the poor, we encounter God who encloses us both “behind and before” (Ps. 139:5). He is both the true donor and the true recipient.

Yes — “happy,” then,  are both Luke’s “poor” (6:20) and Matthew’s “poor [or ‘beggarly’] in spirit” (5:3), for “happy” are they all “whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Ps. 146:4). This all comes through Jesus, who became poor that we might become unspeakably rich in him.

Kristen Gunn is a student at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, where she is happily plucking away at an M.T.S. She has a B.A. in religion and linguistics, and loves dancing in the patristics section of the library when she thinks she is alone.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Dallas, Texas

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