5th Sunday after Pentecost – July 9, 2017
Psalm 150 and John 4:24-26
Our world today is made up of lists. Lists of popularity, lists of the famous, list of the bests, almost anything can be ranked on a list. When you type in favorite psalms you can get a top ten list. You can even find the most searched for psalms. Today’s reading is Psalm 150. Sadly it is not in the top ten, or the top thirty (it ranks 31) I believe finding at the end of the book of Psalms hurts its appeal. Many a good Christian would be hard pressed to answer how many Psalms there are. Hint Psalm 150 is the last.
The psalm is just 6 verses long but contains a wonderful instruction for our Christian lives. Praise God!! We are asked to praise God in his sanctuary, his church, his home. The place where we meet and get to know God. We are asked to praise God in the heavens, in the mighty expanse of his kingdom there is no place where God cannot be found.
We find ourselves in the culture of the celebrity. Athletes, entertainers, politician, business and technology leaders stand before an adoring public and ask us to praise them. We have moved from a star to a superstar. From a legend to an icon. From a hero to a savior. We invest our time and effort praising those who are human. We forget that although they may have skills or charisma or a compelling story but they are but a moment on the world stage. We confuse this celebrity with worthiness, with value and with substance. They are a projected better version of ourselves. A celebrity in the end will disappoint us simply because they are human and we should know better.
We are instructed to praise God because God is praise-able. God is worthy of our praise. God is worthy because of his acts of power and because of his surpassing greatness. There is no other like God.
Who is to praise God? You!, me! All that has breath.
We can find example in Luke of the Angel appearing to the Shepherds. “ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.
If you think about that, it is huge and all encompassing. Yet to understand why that is important is to understand and to believe that all who draw breath are dependent on who gave first breath. God creates us, defines us, shapes us and calls us his own. Without God all who have breath would not exist. We owe God everything.
This is not a conditional call to us. This is not instructing us to praise God when we remember, when our lives are filled with joy, when things are going our way. We are not called to Praise because of God’s actions in our lives, instead it is because of the essential being or nature of God that we are called to Praise Him.
How are we to praise God?
In life, it is good to know who we are and what we are. It is also good to know that we can grow and in the spirit and take steps toward who we want to be. I am a Scottish Presbyterian by birth and nature. We are a no fuss, stoic bunch who do not indulge in such things as joy or exuberance. Today’s reading of Psalm 150 is a real challenge to all that I hold dear. Unrestrained Praise to God. That is a call that is outside my comfort zone. The idea of unrestrained music and dancing, wow dancing, to praise God that is a huge leap in comfort level. The psalmist calls us to
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
This is truly an unrestrained glorious song. Shauna Hannan writing at working preacher says “Aurally, the choice of instruments defies logic. The Lord’s surpassing greatness is difficult to miss and defies a certain organizational logic. This Psalm suggests we do the same to return praise. A number of composers through the ages have helped us do so: Bruckner, Britten, Rutter, Franck. More and more I am keenly aware of how the church’s musicians have been helpful commentators on the Psalms. Indeed, it is through music that we praise the Lord.”
Let’s not miss something wonderful here. This is a loud joyous celebration of Praise. It is dancing, it is music it is loud. Praising God with sound reminds us that God spoke the world into being. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light
It was sound that brought the world into being.
In many ways this psalm makes all of the other psalms make sense. It puts the psalms in perspective.
This is the last psalm in the book of psalms. It is a doxology for the whole book, reciting the “place, theme, mode, and extent of God’s high praise.”
A doxology is a short hymn of praises to God in various forms of Christian worship, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in the Jewish synagogue, where some version of the Kaddish serves to terminate each section of the service.
–John Pulsford, in “Quiet Hours”, 1857
Each of the last five Psalms begins and ends with Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord. And each Psalm increases in praise, love, and joy, unto the last, which is praise celebrating its ecstasy. The elect soul, the heir of God, becomes “eaten up” with the love of God. He begins every sentence with Hallelujah; and his sentences are very short, for he is in haste to utter his next Hallelujah, and his next, and his next. He is as one out of breath with enthusiasm, or as one on tiptoe, in the act of rising from earth to heaven. The greatest number of words between any two Hallelujahs is four, and that only once: in every other instance, between one Hallelujah and another there are but two words. It is as though the soul gave utterance to its whole life and feeling in the one word, Hallelujah! The words, “Praise ye the Lord!” or “Praise him!” “Praise him!” “Praise him!” are reiterated no fewer than twelve times in a short Psalm of six short verses.
Praising and celebrating God is but one step in loving and trusting God in our lives. I pray that we have the courage to Praise God unceasingly in our lives and to let that be reflected in our thoughts, in our relationships and in our actions. May we be out of breath with enthusiasm and never ceasing in our praise of GOD