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PSALM 150|PRAISE THE LORD!

August 20, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

PRAISE THE LORD!

PSALM 150

AUGUST 19, 2018

WE CALL IT – “PREACHING TO THE CHOIR.”

 

WHICH MEANS, OF COURSE, THAT BECAUSE THE CHOIR IS ALWAYS HERE; COMMITTED TO NEARLY EVERY SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, AND EVERY SPECIAL SERVICE;

 

AND OUR CHOIR IS NO DIFFERENT: EVERY WEDNESDAY, EVERY SUNDAY…

 

WHAT IT MEANS – “PREACHING TO THE CHOIR” – IS THAT THEY’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!  THEY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY BEFORE YOU SAY IT; AND THEY DO, IN PART, BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.

 

OF COURSE, THIS DOESN’T JUST GO FOR THE LITERAL CHOIR, BUT FOR ALL THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL; ALMOST ALWAYS HERE; AND WHO, WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT, YEAR AFTER YEAR, SERMON AFTER SERMON…

 

KNOW, AND FOR THE MOST PART, BELIEVE, WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS TRUE.

 

IT IS CALLED BEING FAITHFUL – AND IT’S A HUGE PART OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BELIEVER.

 

HOPEFULLY, OCCASIONALLY, WE PREACHERS SURPRISE YOU ONCE IN A WHILE WITH SOMETHING NEW; SOMETHING YOU’VE NEVER QUITE THOUGHT OF BEFORE;

 

SOMETHING THAT ENCOURAGES YOU, INSPIRES YOU, MOVES YOU IN SOME WAY;

 

THAT SPURS YOU INTO ACTION IN YOUR OWN WALK OF FAITH, OR IN YOUR SERVICE TO GOD THROUGH THE CHURCH, OR ELSEWHERE.

 

ONE OF MY SEMINARY PREACHING PROFESSORS SUGGESTED THAT IF WE PREACHERS HIT ON AVERAGE, WHAT A GOOD BASEBALL PLAYER HITS: .300;

 

THAT IS, IF WE GET A HIT 3 OUT OF 10 TIMES WITH OUR SERMONS, WE’RE DOING PRETTY WELL.

 

BY THE WAY – THERE ARE TIMES – LOTS OF TIMES – ALMOST ALL THE TIME – THAT THE CHOIR PREACHES TO US THROUGH THEIR BEAUTIFUL WORDS AND MUSIC – MOVING US, INSPIRING US, TOUCHING US.

 

ALL OF THIS – WHAT PREACHERS DO; WHAT CHOIRS DO; WHAT THE FOLKS IN THE PEW DO; WHAT ALL BELIEVERS DO; ARE WAYS OF PRAISING GOD.

 

PRAISE THE LORD!

 

AND IF WE’RE HONEST, IT’S NOT JUST THE CHURCHED, BUT LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO FIND WAYS TO PRAISE THE LORD!

 

AND MAYBE NOT EVEN JUST PEOPLE, BUT ALL OF CREATION!  EACH, IN ITS OWN WAY, PRAISING GOD.

 

IT IS THE LAST VERSE OF PSALM 150 FOR THIS MORNING: “LET EVERYTHING THAT BREATHES PRAISE THE LORD!  PRAISE THE LORD!”

 

IT’S NOT JUST WITH OUR VOICES OR WITH THE VARIOUS SUNDRY INSTRUMENTS MENTIONED IN THIS MORNING’S PSALM – TRUMPETS, LUTES, AND HARPS;

 

NOT JUST WITH TAMBOURINE AND DANCE; OR STRINGS AND PIPE; OR LOUD CLASHING SYMBOLS THAT WE PRAISE THE LORD;

 

BUT IN EVERYTHING WE DO; IN WHO WE ARE; WITH OUR WHOLE BEING, WE CAN PRAISE THE LORD!

 

AND NOT JUST IN THE SANCTUARY, BUT IN GOD’S MIGHTY FIRMAMENT – THAT IS, BASICALLY, EVERYWHERE, ANY TIME, ALL THE TIME, WHEREVER WE ARE!

 

IN PREPARING FOR THIS SERMON, I FOUND AN OLD ENGLISH COMMENTARY ON THE 150TH PSALM TUCKED AWAY IN MY, NOW, BOXES OF BOOKS, I’M MOVING.

 

YOU’LL SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT ITS OLD ENGLISH FLAVOR WHEN YOU HEAR SOME OF THE WORDS IT USES – BUT LISTEN TO WHAT IT’S SAYING:

 

“ALL MEN (ALL PEOPLE) WITHOUT DISTINCTION OF RANK, AGE, OR SEX, HAVE THE SAME OBLIGATION AND PRIVILEGE OF PRAISE.

 

KINGS ARE MOST KINGLY WHEN THEY CAST THEIR CROWNS BEFORE GOD.  JUDGES ARE WISE WHEN THEY SIT AS GOD’S VICE-GERENTS.

 

THE BUOYANT VIGOR OF YOUTH IS PUREST WHEN USED WITH REMEMBRANCE OF THE CREATOR; THE MAIDEN’S VOICE IS NEVER SO SWEET AS IN HYMNS TO JEHOVAH.

 

THE MEMORIES AND FEEBLENESS OF AGE ARE HALLOWED AND STRENGTHENED BY THE RECOGNITION OF THE GOD WHO CAN RENEW FAILING ENERGY AND SOOTHE SAD REMEMBRANCES;

 

AND THE CHILD’S OPENING POWERS ARE PRESERVED FROM STAIN AND DISTORTION, BY DRAWING NEAR TO GOD IN WHOSE EXTREMES OF LIFE FIND COMMON GROUND.”

 

AND THIS IS THE LINE I ESPECIALLY LOVE, GIVEN THAT I AM “PREACHING TO THE CHOIR;”

 

THE YOUNG MAN’S STRONG BASS, THE MAIDEN’S CLEAR ALTO, THE OLD MAN’S QUIVERING NOTES, THE CHILD’S FRESH TREBLE, SHOULD BLEND IN SONG.”

 

DON’T YOU SEE?  WE ARE GOD’S CHOIR, AND WHETHER OR NOT WE CAN SING A LICK; OR PLAY AN INSTRUMENT; OUR LIVES AS BELIEVERS SHOULD “BLEND IN SONG.”

 

WE ARE THE “VOICES;” WE ARE THE “INSTRUMENTS.”

 

MANY OF US KNOW THE WONDERFUL PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS.  SOME OF THE CHOIR MEMBERS KNOW IT AS A BEAUTIFUL ANTHEM: MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT…

 

LISTEN, AGAIN, TO THE WORDS OF HIS PRAYER:

 

LORD, MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT OF YOUR PEACE.

WHERE THERE IS HATRED, LET ME SOW LOVE;

WHERE THERE IS INJURY, PARDON;

WHERE THERE IS DOUBT, FAITH;

WHERE THERE IS DESPAIR, HOPE;

WHERE THERE IS DARKNESS, LIGHT;

WHERE THERE IS SADNESS, JOY.

 

O, DIVINE MASTER, GRANT THAT I MAY NOT SO MUCH SEEK TO BE CONSOLED AS TO CONSOLE;

TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS TO UNDERSTAND;

TO BE LOVED AS TO LOVE;

FOR IT IS IN GIVING THAT WE RECEIVE;

IT IS IN PARDONING THAT WE ARE PARDONED;

IT IS IN DYING THAT WE ARE BORN AGAIN TO ETERNAL LIFE.

 

IN EACH CASE, IN EACH PLACE, IN EVERY WAY, ST. FRANCIS’ PRAYER SAYS WE ARE TO BE WHATEVER INSTRUMENT OF GOD THAT IS NEEDED IN THE MOMENT.

 

AS BELIEVERS, WE ARE TO BE WHATEVER IT IS ANOTHER NEEDS; WHATEVER THE SITUATION CALLS FOR.

 

PLEASE NOTICE WHAT ELSE ST. FRANCIS PRAYS – WHAT HE UNDERSTANDS ABOUT CHRISTIAN SERVICE, AND HELPING OTHERS…

THAT IN DOING SO, IN THINKING OF OTHERS FIRST;

 

IN SERVING RATHER THAN BEING SERVED; IN CONSOLING RATHER THAN BEING CONSOLED; IN UNDERSTANDING RATHER THAN SEEKING TO BE UNDERSTOOD; IN LOVING RATHER THAN BEING LOVED;

 

NOT ONLY ARE WE HELPING OTHERS, AND ACCOMPLISHING THE WILL OF GOD, WE OURSELVES WILL BENEFIT;

 

IN GIVING – WE RECEIVE; IN PARDONING, WE ARE PARDONED; IN DYING TO SELF, WE ARE REBORN IN GOD’S IMAGE AND FOREVER.

 

THERE IS NO GREATER PRAISE OF GOD THAN THIS: TO BE AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD’S PEACE.

 

AND AS MEMBERS OF PEACE – OF PEACE COVENANT CHURCH – DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT PUTS US IN A SPECIAL AND UNIQUE POSITION TO PLAY OUR PART; TO BE INSTRUMENTS OF GOD’S PEACE?

 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT ST. FRANCIS’ PRAYER IS THAT IN PRAYING IT, WE ARE PRAYING TO BECOME THE ANSWER; THE ANTIDOTE; THE ANTITHESIS;

 

TO WHATEVER PROBLEM, STRUGGLE, DIFFICULTY, OR HARDSHIP OTHERS ARE EXPERIENCING.

 

“WHERE THERE IS HATRED, LET ME SOW LOVE; WHERE INJURY, PARDON; WHERE THERE IS DOUBT, FAITH; WHERE THERE IS DESPAIR, HOPE; IN DARKNESS, LIGHT; IN SADNESS, JOY.”

 

CAN YOU IMAGINE – CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO STEP INTO THE LIVES OF OTHERS; OR FOR ANOTHER TO STEP INTO OUR LIVES;

 

AND BE THE ANSWER, THE ANTIDOTE, THE ANTITHESIS OF DOUBT AND DESPAIR; OF SADNESS; DARKNESS, HATRED, AND INJURY?!

 

I KNOW YOU CAN IMAGINE IT – BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE IT, AND HAD IT DONE FOR YOU AT TIMES.

 

YOU HAVE BEEN THAT PERSON FOR OTHERS, AND SOMEONE HAS BEEN THAT PERSON FOR YOU.

 

THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BELIEVER; TO BE A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST; TO BE THE CHURCH; TO BE GOD’S CHOIR!

 

AND WHENEVER WE ACT IN THESE WAYS – IN ADDITION TO WHATEVER IT IS WE ARE DOING; HOWEVER, IT IS WE ARE HELPING ANOTHER…

WE ARE ALSO PRAISING THE LORD!

 

WHEN I WAS A CHILD, MAYBE WHEN YOU WERE AS WELL, THEY WOULD PILE US ALL INTO BUSES ON A PARTICULAR SCHOOL DAY, AND TAKE US DOWNTOWN TO SYMPHONY HALL.

 

THERE, IN MY CASE, THE ORLANDO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, WOULD PLAY FOR US IN WHAT WERE KNOWN IN SOME PLACES AS TINY TOT CONCERTS.

 

THE COMIC STRIP PEANUTS USED TO MENTION TINY TOT CONCERTS ON OCCASION.

 

A COUPLE OF FAVORITE PIECES PLAYED AT THESE CONCERTS WERE: THE WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE – WHICH WE KNEW, OF COURSE, AS THE THEME SONG FOR THE LONE RANGER; THE FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLE BEE;

 

AND, OF COURSE, PETER AND THE WOLF; AT THE TIME, MADE FAMOUS BY LEONARD BERNSTEIN AND THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC.

 

AS YOU MAY REMEMBER, THIS PIECE WAS PLAYED AS A WAY OF INTRODUCING US CHILDREN TO THE VARIOUS PARTS OF THE ORCHESTRA, AS EACH CHARACTER IN PETER AND THE WOLF WAS PORTRAYED BY A DIFFERENT INSTRUMENT.

 

THE BIRD BY A FLUTE, THE DUCK BY AN OBOE, THE CAT BY A CLARINET;

 

THE GRANDFATHER BY A BASSOON, THE WOLF BY THREE HORNS, PETER BY THE STRING QUARTET;

 

THE SHOOTING OF THE HUNTERS BY THE KETTLE DRUMS AND BASS DRUM.

 

(BY THE WAY, YOU CAN ASK ALEXA TO PLAY BERNSTEIN’S VERSION, OR I’M SURE, YOU CAN FIND IT ONLINE SOMEWHERE.)

 

BEFORE THE PIECE WAS PLAYED THEY WOULD TELL US SOMETHING OF THE STORY OF PETER AND THE WOLF;

 

THEY DESCRIBED THE INSTRUMENTS AND THE CHARACTERS THEY WOULD REPRESENT; AND EACH MUSICIAN WOULD PLAY A FEW NOTES.

 

THEN THEY WOULD PLAY THE PIECE, AND AS PROMISED, JUST BY HEARING THE INSTRUMENTS, WE COULD SEE THE STORY PLAY OUT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES… OR EARS, AS THE CASE MAY BE.

 

THIS IS THE MEANING OF THE 150TH PSALM.  IT IS WHAT THAT OLD ENGLISH COMMENTARY ON THE PSALM IS GETTING AT.  IT’S WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY IN THIS MORNING’S SERMON.

 

WHEN WE PLAY OUR PART – WHEN WE LIVE OUT OUR FAITH – PEOPLE CAN SEE, HEAR, FEEL, AND KNOW OUR FAITH IN GOD;

 

BUT WHAT’S MORE, IN SOME SMALL MEASURE, (AND SOMETIMES – IN NO SMALL MEASURE!) THEY CAN COME TO KNOW AND BELIEVE IN GOD.

 

TOGETHER, WE ARE GOD’S CHOIR; THE ORCHESTRA OF CHRIST.  TOGETHER, WE PLAY THE SYMPHONY OF GOD.

 

WE ARE GOD’S INSTRUMENTS; AND EACH OF US HAS A PART TO PLAY; AND WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME.

 

WE KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE, DO WE NOT?

 

SOME OF US, ENTER A ROOM, APPROACH LIFE, LIKE A WANDERING MINSTREL:

 

STRUMMING SOUNDS – “ONCE THERE WAS A YOUNG MAN” – STRUMMING SOUNDS…

 

WHILE OTHERS LIVE OUT OUR LIVES BUOYANTLY UPBEAT – WHISTLE THE TUNE FROM PETER AND THE WOLF – WHISTLING…

 

SOME OF US ARE STEADY AS ROCK – THAT SOLID DRUMBEAT BENEATH ALL OF LIFE – BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

 

AND STILL OTHERS OF US MARCH OUR WAY THROUGH LIFE – (CIRCUS) DA DA DA DA DA – CRASHING CYMBAL – DA DA DA DA – CLASHING CYMBALS DA DA – AS LOUD CLASHING CYMBALS!

 

ALL OF US – PRAISING GOD IN OUR OWN WAY!

 

POINT IS – WE PRAISE GOD BEST BY DOING WHATEVER IT IS WE DO – BEST!

 

LAWYERING… CONSTRUCTING… REPORTING… AS CLOTHIERS…

NURSING… BANKING… TEACHING… SERVING… HOTELIER-ING

 

THE SAME GOES FOR OUR CHURCH JOBS AS WELL – DOING OUR VERY BEST!

 

USHERING… SINGING… PLAYING BELLS… AS ELDERS… TEACHING… VISITING… SERVING ON COMMITTEES… AT CHURCH WORK DAYS…

 

WHEN WE PLAY OUR PART, AND WHEN WE DO IT WELL, WITHIN THE CHURCH (IN THE SANCTUARY) OR OUTSIDE OF IT (IN GOD’S FIRMAMENT) WE ARE PRAISING THE LORD!

 

LET EVERYTHING THAT BREATHES PRAISE THE LORD!  PRAISE THE LORD!

 

 

 

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