A psalm of David.
1Let all that I am praise the LORD;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2Let all that I am praise the LORD;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
3He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6The LORD gives righteousness
and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
15Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
17But the love of the LORD remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
19The LORD has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.
20Praise the LORD, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands.
21Yes, praise the LORD, you armies of angels
who serve him and do his will!
22Praise the LORD, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom.
Let all that I am praise the LORD.
A lot of thought goes into desserts in the wintertime. In our country, we begin at Halloween with candy, gear up with pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving , and are in full swing with assortments of desserts – both candy canes and cookies for Santa at Christmastime. It doesn’t stop there though. Once New Year’s rolls around, many people make decisions to lose some of that weight they gained during the holiday festivities – so they are still thinking about desserts… either the lack of them in their lives, or how to make them with less fat and sugar. Then of course, there is the growing number of people in our country suffering from diabetes that need to regulate their sugar intake, so they always have to be thoughtful about their desserts.
We pass along recipes for that certain kind of cake or pie that’s just how Mom used to make, or perhaps something new we happened across that turned out well. Rarely have I heard someone asked how they made that special batch of mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. We either work through the regular meal to save the best for last (dessert) or, as some are prone to do, eat their dessert first. Either way, it tends to be something we actively work towards, or intentionally avoid.
You can perhaps imagine how confused I was the first time I heard the phrase “just deserts”, as in “he got his just deserts” – for although spelled like the vast, sandy patch of land, it is pronounced as the sweets we know and love. Yet, the actual meaning of the phrase “just deserts” implies judgment and consequences that fall upon us, perhaps for good, but most often for ill. The closest parallel I can relate is the threat parents make to their children, that if they do not eat their vegetables, there will be no dessert for them. Even this is not quite accurate though. The phrase comes from the word “deserve”. To get your just deserts is to get what you deserve.
I suspect we keep a special focus in our lives on what we deserve, just as much, if not more so, than our thoughts spent on dessert. It drives our work, play, relationships, and expectations of the world around us. It helps us look out for the needs of those around us. It helps us advocate for those who suffer injustices. It can also be a trap. Seeking our just deserts can draw us in and keep us so focused on what we have earned that we forget all about the blessings God gives us that we have not earned.
Read verses 8-10 of this psalm again. The Lord is merciful, slow to anger, full of compassion and unfailing love. He does not remain angry forever or constantly accuse us. He does not punish us for all our sin. In other words, with God, we never get our “just deserts”. Thank goodness for that. I know for every time I have done something good, there have probably been a dozen times in my life I have acted selfishly. For every generous gift I have given, I have likely spent ten times that amount chasing after foolish and vain things that did not bring God glory. Perhaps I could think of all the bad things that I could have done with my life, but have chosen not to… and yet, how often have my life choices been guided by the blessing of loving family members, friends who pray for me daily, and church congregations that have walked beside me through good times and bad. All too often, it seems to me that the little bit of good I can do in this world, I am only able to do, because of God’s blessing and grace in my life. Therefore, I choose to be thankful for God’s goodness, rather than fighting for acknowledgment of my own.
Tonight, we begin a look at the mass – perhaps the basis of Christian worship, and the story told through its movements. We begin entering God’s presence with a reminder of our baptism and the Kyrie on our lips. We do not come to God with bags of gold or incense, money or even promises. We come humbly into His presence crying out again for the mercy to even be in God’s presence. Thanks be to God who is full of that very mercy, and let all that I am praise the LORD.