Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Psalm 146, Praise the Lord

Click Here to Read Psalm 146

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 146 begins the last five chapters of the psalter anthology.  The last five chapters serve as a large doxology, or "hymn of praise."  Unlike last week's psalm with a slightly curious text, this psalm is in itself a hymn of praise to God with exhortation for those who sing its words.  Let's take a deeper look at these words.

The first two verses of the psalm are explicit words of praise on the part of the singer.  It isn't enough that one just sings "praise the Lord," but that it be a posture that reaches to the depths of the soul and that it be a pervasive theme in the life of the believer, the whole life.  "Praise the Lord" is also not simply the words of the singer to God, ascribing praise to the Lord, but also exhortation to those around him to join the song of praise.  This exhortation beckons the humanity that surrounds us, a humanity to which we are deeply obligated to be engaged with, to join our song.  But what are we singing about?  Let me say, that it is enough that we as the created praise our Creator.  The fact that we have life to live out praise is enough to praise God, but we lift up what he does and our limitations.  More on this in a bit, but let's look further.

"Do not put your trust in..." fill in the blank.  If it isn't God, don't put your trust in it.  We are given wonderful companions with which to work to live to love, but they will always fail us.  We are called to forgive and to love, but failure is inevitable.  "Do not put your trust in.." calls us to put our trust in God who never fails, in whom we have our help.  I think the final phrase of verse four is interesting "...on that very day their plans parish."  How many of us have lost loved ones, or even people that we know suddenly?  How much has that changed the perspective of our plans and projects?  On that very day, everything is different.  When we are reminded of the reality of "that very day," should our perspective change?  How do we live in light of the fragility of that or those in which we are told not to put our trust?

The fragility that surrounds us, the dubious nature of those we are tempted to put our faith in is magnificently juxtaposed in this psalm by the accounting of God's works in verses five through nine.  I am pleased that my writing of this blog happens to be on the day that the pope called for a worldwide wave of prayer for justice and hunger.  Our help is in the Lord who "executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry."  The pope and the presiding bishop of the ELCA who encouraged her flock to pray with the rest of the world for those who hunger speak to the kingdom of God in which the hungry are fed and the blind see.  Look at last week's psalm for more discussion on this kingdom.  The first psalm (146) of the five chapter doxology wastes no time in praising God, and calling for praise of God's provisions for those who need it.  If we take a critical look at these verses, as well as the rest of scripture, our worldview has to be shaped with the poor, both in body and spirit, in mind.  It is to them that God brings good news--not that this news is limited to the poor, but that they have fewer "things" separating them from this good news.  We have to ask ourselves tough questions about our priorities if we are to read scripture with any kind of gravity.  Where is our mission?  Where is our ministry?  What is the make up of our church and how do we extend ourselves naturally to the community as agents of grace calling for praise of God for his wonderful works of filling the hungry other than by indeed filling the hungry with "good things"?  (Starting with food.)

The LORD will reign forever indeed.  Something about verses five through nine remind me of John the Baptist's questioning of Jesus being the chosen one or messiah.  "Are you the one, or are we to look for another?" John asks (through his disciples), to paraphrase, Jesus says, "just look around, things are happening."  These things are recounted in verses five through nine of our psalm for this third Sunday of Advent.  Read them over and over again and look for them in your community.  Look for justice for the oppressed.  Look for the filling of the hungry and for the freedom of prisoners in the prison of sin and death.  Look for eyes that are opening to the good news of Jesus, alive and well, and active.  Once you've seen it, join in and start talking about it and encourage others to join the song of "Praise the LORD, O my soul."

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