Stradivarius, with his two sons, made wonderful violins, violas and cellos in their Italian workshop in Cremona 300 years ago, instruments much appreciated to this day. I once read a probably apocryphal story that when Stradivarius went out to select wood for his instruments, he chose the part of the tree that had faced north. That was the the side which had known the buffeting of wind and weather, and had been brought through it. Stradivarius believed that that side of the tree produced the most sincere and beautiful music. Alternatively but similarly Wikipedia notes that recent studies suggest that the wonderful sound of his violins is due to an extreme density was the result of slow growth during the harsh conditions of the Little Ice Age in Europe between 1645-1750.
Either way, might it also be somewhat similar with our lives? Do we not often find that people whose lives have been touched by hardship and sadness, who have been most aware of the reality of the human condition, seem also to be the ones who live with great sensitivity and strength?
This morning we gather to begin another week of grace in the worship God, and will focus upon the great 103rd Psalm. The song acknowledges the hard dimensions of life … the brokenness and the fragility of humanity, ‘sins’, ‘inquiries’, ‘transgressions’ and ultimately ‘as for mortals, their days are like grass’ … but does so in the larger context of God’s promises and power, beginning and ending with the song ‘Bless the Lord’.
We will be join in singing ‘Praise my soul the king of heaven’ based on Psalm 103 with its wonderful words ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, evermore his praises sing’, and the sermon will conclude with the Scottish metrical version of 1650 ‘O thou my soul, bless God the Lord, and all that is within me be stirred up his holy name to magnify and bless’.