Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19 (NRSV)
Verse 1I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
Verse 2Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Verse 12What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
Verse 13I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
Verse 14I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Verse 15Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.
Verse 16O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.
Verse 17I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
Verse 18I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
Verse 19in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
Psalm 116 is spoken from the lips of one who narrowly escaped death, with the Lord’s merciful help. In Eugene Peterson’s poignant translation, “The Message,” it reads: “Death stared me in the face, Hell was hard on my heels.” But the near-dead-one called out to God, who stretched out a saving hand. The now-rescued-one then asked, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation.” The cup of salvation—what could this mean? For the psalmist, it was likely a feast prepared in God’s honor, to give thanks for all of God’s saving help—“a toast to God.”
When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with cancer and had both legs amputated. Since then, every 10 years, I gather my family and a few close friends for a feast of thanksgiving for all the Lord’s bounty to me. This year will be 40 years—a biblical number. And every week I gather with other sinners and we lift up the cup of salvation, for all the Lord’s forgiveness, grace, and bounty to all of us.
Lord, Death stares us in the face, Hell is on our heels, Sin wants to claim us. But we claim your power, your protection, and your forgiveness. God, here’s to you! Amen.