Creekside Church
Sermon of February 2, 2020

"Halleluia!"
Psalm 148

Pastor
Rosanna McFadden

 

Good morning! There may come a time in the course of human events when it becomes necessary for people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and a time for a sermon which brings into sharp contrast the theological issues which divide us, and clarifies who will or will not be accepted into the kingdom of God. Now is not that time.

Had you going’, didn’t I? You are not the only ones giving a sigh of relief: I am not sure a sermon about who is in and who is out is mine to preach -- at least that is not the word which God has laid on my heart. Here’s a better word, and which I hope we can all agree on: Praise. Until we have done the work of praising God, I don’t think we can set ourselves up to speak for God: and if we are people who are focused on praising God, we might just find that some of the things which we disagree about are not as important as they seem.

I’ll apologize in advance for the grammar lesson, but I think it’s important to point out that the word “praise” can be used in several ways: praise is a noun, a thing, even though it’s a thing without literal form: praise is something like a concept or a legal argument; praise is something we can offer to God. We give God our praise. Are you with me? Praise is also a verb: something we do. More importantly, it’s something we are commanded to do. In English we can give a command without saying specifically who it is directed to: this is usually more forceful; it’s called an imperative. So, instead of the worship leader saying, “At this time I’d like everyone who is seated in the congregation to please rise for the Call to Worship,” the worship leader can just say “Stand up!” or Please stand.

Hebrew, the language of the psalms, has this same imperative voice. The difference is, Hebrew smushes the command “[Everybody] Praise the Lord” into a single word. It’s one of the few Hebrew words which we ever use without translation, and that word is Halleluia. The last five psalms of the collection of 150 -- that is psalms 146-150 -- are called the Hall-el psalms because each begins with this command: Praise the Lord. Although all of these psalms have a lot of energy for worship, psalm 150 and psalm 148 are probably my favorite of this set. Psalm 150 is the one which mentions all the musical instruments we can use to praise the Lord -- including clanging cymbals and loud clashing cymbals -- I’m not sure what the difference is, but I’m pretty sure they’re both noisy.

I chose Psalm 148 for our text this morning because it’s a list of who should be praising the Lord. In Larry Ford’s article in the last Connection, he used a lovely phrase to describe nature and creation as the “realm of God.” I love the relationship which is implied in that phrase: nature is a kingdom of which God is the ruler, right? That is exactly the hierarchy which the psalmist is going through for us: it how the Hebrews believed the world was ordered. If you have your Bible and want to track Psalm 148 with me, feel free to do that. We start with the heavens and all the angels, and then the sun, moon and stars, and the waters above the heavens -- which would be the clouds and where the rain is stored. Then we move down to the earth and the oceans and sea monsters. Remember, the Hebrews were desert and dry land folks -- the sea was a place of mystery and chaos and danger: but Psalm 148 says even the sea monsters know who’s boss and are commanded to praise God, along with hail, snow, and other things which none of us can control, but are commanded by God.

We’re following the sequence of creation from the book of Genesis: next is mountains and trees and then wild and domestic animals¬--and then creeping things (we won’t go into detail there) and birds. And in verse 11 we finally get to people, beginning with kings and working down to ordinary men and women, young and old and presumably those in the middle, folks like you and me.

Psalm 148 doesn’t mention every animal, or every possible group of people (Slow people, fast people, small people, tall people -- that sounds more like Dr. Seuss than the Psalmist) but the intent is clear: Halleluia! Is a command for everybody and everything. We don’t praise God when it’s convenient, when we’re in a good mood, or when we’re asking for something; we praise God because it’s what we are created to do, and who we are created to be. If journaling or creative writing is something you enjoy or use as a devotional practice, you might make your own list of who and what should praise the Lord: what’s the smallest thing and the largest thing? How would you write a description of everything?

Over the next three weeks of Praise, Blessing and Joy I will be talking about Random Acts of Kindness and sharing some stories from folks at Creekside and elsewhere. Somebody -- I don’t know who -- has designated Sunday, February 16 and Monday February 17 as National Random Acts of Kindness Days. I’m in favor of RAKs, and I have loved reading and hearing stories from you, but I want to be clear: kindness is not the same as Christianity. It’s possible to be a kind person and not believe in Jesus Christ and not confess your sins and accept the gift of Christ’s grace. You can do acts of kindness and ignore the command to Praise God! However, if you claim to be a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ, and don’t see any need to be kind to other people . . . I would wonder about that. Praise, Blessing and Joy are biblical imperatives, and if we take them seriously that cannot help but shape our lives and effect the way we relate to other people. Kindness may be a little cousin to Praise, but I think they’re part of the same family. Of the three ideas we’ll be considering over these three weeks, Kindness is probably most closely related to Blessing. I think they all would play well together -- although Praise is a little bossy when it comes to commanding others.

The concept of kindness -- a willingness to be considerate and caring -- has been around for a long time. It’s a quality which humans have, or can have, and animals do not. I want to share some quotes about kindness. The first was written about 2500 years ago.

Aesop
Dali Lama
Kahlil Gibran
Proverbs
Contemporary

I want to share some of the stories I heard from you about Random Acts of Kindness; these aren’t all the stories I heard, but we have two more Sundays and time for more. If you haven’t told me a story you have yet, there’s still time.

Here’s one somebody passed along from Facebook about a child at Wal-Mart.

Pawn shop and woman who just wanted enough money to eat.

Of course, you don’t have to spend money to do something kind for someone else. Line at Meijer

This story might seem like a small thing -- it probably was to the person who gave up their place in line; but the one who received this act of kindness remembered it clearly almost a year later: we never know how an act of kindness will affect someone else. Of course, the same is true for unkindness.

There’s a little wooden box full of PB&J notecards just outside the door on the ushers’ table. During February, I hope you can use those to share Praise, Blessing, and Joy. This week, I suggest you start with someone -- more than one is fine -- and express appreciation or blessing for what they do at Creekside. If writing is not your thing, feel free to tell them in person or give them a call. If appreciation is not your thing, may I suggest that you give it a try. We have about a dozen long-term ministry teams; each has a leader and other team members. If you don’t know these teams and members, look in the Creekside directory: only a few have changed since last summer. If looking in the directory is too much effort, here’s an alternative: pay attention. Those screens which were just projected, the snacks which we’ll have for Fellowship time, the dishes that get washed afterward, the heat on here in the Worship Center -- those things didn’t happen by themselves -- somebody did those things for us. Pay attention to who those people are, and tell them, “Thank you for your service to the church; thank you for sharing your gifts. God bless you.”

And remember, unlike a peanut-butterand jelly sandwich, praise is sugar-free, fat-free, peanut-free, gluten-free, and calorie-free: praise is just free. Halleluia! Praise the Lord. Amen.

 

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