Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
There is a fascinating Roman mythological creature called Janus, which is famous for having two faces watching both ways. From this figure, we get the name of the first month of the calendar, January, the month which looks in both directions for old and new years. Its main job is to guard doors and gates. Janus is a fascinating creature representing dramatic transitions.
Today is Palm Sunday. This Palm Sunday also has this Janus-like quality, for it looks both ways. It begins as the Palm Sunday and ends as the Passion Sunday. Traditionally, we get on a spiritual rollercoaster on a Palm/Passion Sunday, going from the loud Hosanna of the Palm Sunday to the somber beginning of the Passion Week, the Holy Week.
On this rigorous Sunday, our first lesson reminds that even in the midst of this rapid pace of change of the Palm/Passion Sunday, we know there is something that endures forever. Now the two selections of Psalm 118 offer a key word that we want to circle. It is “steadfast love.” Situations may vary, and people change rather fast, but God’s steadfast love endures forever. We may stumble over all sorts of obstacles, but God’s steadfast love endures forever. In all vagaries of life, God’s steadfast love endures forever.
“Steadfast love” is made of two words, but in the Hebrew Bible, it is just one word: hesed.
English Bible translators since early 16th century had to make up a new word to translate the Hebrew word hesed. They combined two English words, loving and kind. There was no word like “loving kind.” Today we say “steadfast love,” for the main quality of hesed is its durability. It is a Duracell type love. Energizer is the Pentecost battery, and Duracell is this steadfast battery.
I have heard this word “steadfast” a lot, but I got curious on what the word really means. So I went back to the Oxford English Dictionary, which says that the word “steadfast” comes from a combination of two words. The stead means “place,” and fast means, “firmly fixed in its place.” I suppose that steadfast means to hold the place firmly fixed in its place. Steadfast love is a kind of love, but it is a steadfast kind. We hold our place in place. That is this hesed love, the steadfast love, something that time cannot corrupt.
(c) Rev. Dr. Jin Han 2013