I will lift you up high, my God, the true king. I will bless your name forever and always. I will bless you every day. I will praise your name forever and always. The LORD is great and so worthy of praise. God’s greatness can’s be grasped. —Psalm 145:1—3
All of the passages assigned for this week’s lectionary address the challenges of living in the present time, when temptations abound to dwell in the past or worry about the future. Psalm 145, the prophecy from Haggai 1:15b-2:9, Paul’s encouragement in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, and the gospel story in Luke 20:27-38; all offer guidance to their communities about living faithful lives today.
I will preach in Sunday worship from the epistle text which encourages us to “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” Those traditions of course are the foundation of our faith—and Paul’s writings always direct the early church (and therefore us) to stand firm in the spiritual practices and experiences of our faith! But these glorious images of praise from the Psalm suggest that grounding one’s personal and communal life in praise of God provides the surest way to be faithful.
The practice of “singing” these Psalms, of “praising God” is a wonderful spiritual tool. If we sing this particular song we cannot help but get in touch with how amazing our God really is—and how deeply and wholly God cares for us. If we sing this song, we will witness to the ways that God is involved in our lives and our community. If we sing this song, it will shift the heart from the aches and disappointments of the past and the fears and worries about the future to the glory of God’s grace and presence in the present!
Psalm 145 is the first in a series of “praise psalms” (145–150) which conclude the Psalter. As with many psalms, the voice changes often: some verses speak to God, some speak of God. Using the acrostic poetic form, in which each verse begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the psalmist spells out God’s greatness and goodness from A to Z. Proclamations of God’s might and power join with proclamations of God’s love for the individual, for generations, for the community and for all of creation. As these doxological statements weave through the psalm, they create a vivid testimony to God’s universal care, God’s intimate involvement with humanity, and God’s ability and willingness (God’s Hesed) to provide for all.
Friends, if we allow that testimony to wash over the aches and disappointments of the past and re-frame the fears and worries about the future—-we cannot help but sing! One of my favorite hymns in the New Century Hymnal is know as “How Can I Keep from Singing.”
My life goes on in endless song; above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing,
It finds an echo in my soul—-How can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comforts die? My Savior still is living.
What though the shadows gather ‘round? A new song Christ is giving.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging;
Since Love commands both heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?
When tyrants tremble sick with fear, and hear their death knells ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near, how can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile our thoughts to them are winging;
When friends by shame are undefiled, how can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths, since first I learned to love it.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain every springing;
All things are mine since I am Christ’s—how can I keep from singing?
As we face the really huge stuff we are negotiating, in our personal lives and in our communal life—I invite you to listen for the echo in your soul and hear the music ringing. And ask yourself: “Since Love commands both heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing? When the peace of Christ makes fresh my heart—how can I keep from singing?” How indeed?
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade, firstname.lastname@example.org