Family Liturgies

Psalm 138: With a Whole Heart

by Erika Marksbury

Scripture Reading: Psalm 138 (NRSV)
“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

Memory Verse
“Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” – Psalm 138:8

Thoughts on Scripture
These days, my boys mostly want to hear want to hear Ninjago stories or Calvin and Hobbes adventures at bedtime. But some nights, when I just want to settle them in with a softer story, I pull out the old board books we hang on to: Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon and Eric Carle’s The Very Lonely Firefly and Noris Kern’s I Love You with All My Heart.

polomomThis last one follows Polo, a small bear who is warned by his friend to be careful not to worry his mother, “who loves you with all of her heart.” Polo is confused, and sets off to ask his other friends what this curious phrase could mean. He meets a little penguin, who says, “My mother loves me with all her wings,” and a seal, who says, “She loves me with all her flippers,” and a wolf who laughs and nibbles Polo’s neck as he explains, “My mother loves me with all her teeth.”

Eventually Polo makes his way back to his own mother, who tells him all the ways she loves him – with her eyes when she sees him, with her fur when she snuggles him, with her paws when she tickles him – and she concludes by calling these ways and more, together, her “whole heart.”

The Psalmist thanks God with a whole heart, too, and gives us some ideas of what that means: singing praise, bowing down, naming what God has done, calling and waiting for answers, and trusting that even through trouble, God will be present.

And God – who loves faithfully, answers the Psalmist’s cries, and stretches out a hand to guide and protect the Psalmist – God’s heart seems wholly given over, too.

Questions to Discuss
– How do you devote yourself to something you love? What does it look like (sound like, feel like) when you do something with your whole heart? (What are those things you do with your whole heart?)

– Who has modeled for you what it means to love, or to give thanks, with a whole heart? As a family, share stories of people you know who dedicate themselves in this way.

– Have you ever, like the Psalmist, been “in the midst of trouble”? What happened? How did you come out of it?

– Is it possible to love, or to do, more than one thing with your whole heart? How do you balance that?

Spiritual Practicejar
– On small slips of paper, write or draw the ways you have known God’s love. Maybe it’s been in the kindness of a friend, or the way your garden grows, or Psalm or song or children’s book that moves you. Think of lots of ways you’re surrounded by the whole-hearted love of God, and then put your papers in a jar. Leave blank papers close by so you can add to the jar at any time. And whenever individual members of your family, or all of you together, need a reminder of God’s love, dump out the slips and read through them. Each slip, really, is a picture of God’s heart, and of yours.

Prayer
Holy One,
Our hearts are full.
There is so much that we love,
like _____________ and _____________ and _____________.
Thank you for all those who teach us how to love.
Teach us to live and love and serve our neighbors
with our whole hearts.
Amen.

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