Dear Christ Church Family,
Do you need a little good news today? How about this, the news of how much God loves you? You can read about it in the 100th Psalm today. But, be careful. If you really let yourself get into this message, you just might catch yourself dancing.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
Psalm 100: a song of love and mirth. There is an amazing word in Psalm 100. It’s only comparable companion in the Bible is the Greek word for love, Agape. It’s found in the last verse. The NRSV attempts to translate it as “steadfast love.” The KJV describes it as “loving kindness.” In our (older than the King James) Prayer Book translation, it’s “enduring mercy.” The word is Hesed. (pronounced with a hard ‘H’, with emphasis on the first syllable.) The reason for these multiple translations of this single word is that this word contains all of these meanings, and more. It is God’s indescribable love, with no limit to its height, depth, length, or breadth. We sometimes wonder if the God of the Old Testament could possibly be the same God of Love we know in the New Testament. The experience of this Psalmist attests to that same identity. God, our God, the God of Jesus, has always been the God of Love.
It’s no wonder, then, that this Psalm inspired one of the best-known hymn tunes in history, “All People That on Earth do Dwell” (Hymnal #378). Its tune name is “Old Hundredth” because of its association with this Psalm. This tune, when sped up a little, nearly dances in its rhythmic pattern. Queen Elizabeth I noted this and attempted to ban it (and its composer, Louise Bourgeois, of whom she was no fan), complaining that its meter was a jig, a popular dance style of her age, and worrying that it would tempt people to wantonly dance in the church aisles. Even the Psalm itself lends itself to that thought when set to this tune. Consider the very first verse of the hymn when it says, “sing to the Lord with a cheerful voice” and “serve him with mirth.” Mirth! Defined in Webster’s as “joy; hilarity; noisy gaiety; jollity!” That’s Mirth! What else could be more appropriate than to dance and be jolly before the God of endless mercy, loving kindness, and steadfast love?
So, the next time you get the chance to sing Old Hundredth, imagine the tune played a little faster, let yourself feel the “jig,” then think about what this Psalmist is saying about how God loves you, and just see if you can keep from dancing.
* Commemorations in italics are from A Great Cloud of Witnesses; others are from Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018.