Drawing on the words of Psalm 146, our theme this Sunday in worship will be "Praise the Lord!"
I know. To a certain extent that is our theme every Sunday in worship. But this Sunday we'll consider the question, "What does it mean to praise the Lord?" and the follow-up question, "And how do I do it?"
When we wrestle with such foundational questions I like to turn to the works of Frederick Buechner. Author, pastor, humorist, and theologian here is what Buechner has to say about praise from his masterwork "Wishful Thinking."
You praise the heartbreaking beauty of Jessye Norman singing the Vier Letzte Lieder of Richard Strauss. You praise the new puppy for making its offering on the lawn for once instead of on the living-room rug. Maybe you yourself are praised for some generous thing you have done. In each case, the praise that is handed out is a measured response. It is a matter of saying something to one degree or another complimentary, with the implication that if Jessye Norman's voice had sprung a leak or the puppy hadn't made it outside in time or your generous deed turned out to be secretly self-serving, a different sort of response altogether would have been called for.
The way the [Psalmist] describes it, praising God is another kettle of fish altogether. It is about as measured as a volcanic eruption, and there is no implication that under any conceivable circumstances it could be anything other than what it is. The whole of creation is in on the act -- the sun and moon, the sea, fire and snow, Holstein cows and white-throated sparrows, old men in walkers and children who still haven't taken their first step. Their praise is not chiefly a matter of saying anything because most of creation doesn't deal in words. Instead the snow whirls, the fire roars, the Holstein bellows, the old man watches the moon rise. Their praise is not something that at their most complimentary they say but something that at the their truest they are.
We learn to praise God not by paying compliments but by paying attention. Watch how the trees exult when the wind is in them. Mark the utter stillness of the great blue heron in the swamp. Listen to the sound of the rain. Learn how to say Hallelujah from the ones who say it right.I'll see you on Sunday as we praise the Lord!
Psalm 146 -- Praise for God’s Help
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!