Psalm 33 and an Ontology of Love

The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
So confesses the psalmist (Psalm 33.5)

Full of love.
Overflowing in love.

Dripping, saturated, soaked, running over in love.

And not just any love.
This is steadfast love.
This is covenantal love.
This is a faithful love.

As far as the psalmist is concerned,
love goes all the way down.

MLK might have been right in saying that
“the moral arc of the universe is long,
but it bends toward justice.”

But the universe bends toward justice
because it is rooted in love.

“We’re given love
and love must be returned.
That’s all the bearings
that you need to learn.
See how the starwheel turns.”

So sings the contemporary psalmist,
Bruce Cockburn.
(“Starwheel,” Joy Will Find a Way)

On crisp fall days like this past weekend,
it is easy to believe that the earth is full
of such steadfast love,
that love is the deepest and most sure
bearing in the cosmos.

The delightful chill in the night air,
balanced by the warmth of the day;
the startling blue of the afternoon sky
and the breathtaking array of the night stars;
the stunning shock of colour in the fall canopy
and the abundance of the harvest …
all bear witness to a creation of delight,
all testify to the steadfast love of the Creator.

That is … until you start to think about beheadings in Iraq,
an ebola epidemic,
the rattling of the sabres of war,
the ecological desecration of our planet,
hundreds of missing aboriginal girls in Canada,
the machinations of the politics of greed,
the deceit of nations,
and the consumer emptiness of our culture.

Then it’s a little difficult to see the world as full of such steadfast love.

What happens when the steadfast love of God meets the counsel of nations?
What happens when the word of the Lord meets the propaganda of empire?
What happens when the justice of God meets a world hell bent on war?

Steadfast love turns to judgement,
the counsel of nations is rendered
null and void,
the propaganda is frustrated
and unveiled as deceit,
the implements of war
are rendered powerless.

The psalms do not call us to empty praise.
The psalms do not fit well in the happy music of the ‘worship set’ at church.
The psalms do not present a sentimental world of sweet love.

No, the psalms envision a world that is full of the steadfast love of God,
in the face of a culture hooked on avarice,
in the face of a species who seem bound to betrayal,
in the face of a culture taking a dive,
and proclaim, with all of creation,
such a waste!
Don’t you know, from the first to the last,
we’re all one in the gift of grace?

Psalm 33 invites us to live
in a world of grace,
a world that is full of the steadfast love of God,
with eyes wide open to all that would strip us of such love,
to all that would render the world so much less.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian and the CRC Campus Minister at the University of Toronto. He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is entitled Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination.

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