Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One Generation Shall Laud Your Works to Another, Psalm 145

Psalm 145 came up in the rotation to read this summer and I remember the day that it came up, I just couldn't get enough of it.  The expansive language and imagery, the vastness of what the psalm requires was just too much for me and yet I kept coming back.  For this week's meditation, rather than walking through the whole psalm, I'd like to take a verse and "chew on it" for our purposes as the Church and as a church.  I encourage you, beyond this one verse, to take time and pray/sing psalm 145 on your own.

One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (verse 4)

I was telling a family this week after church that I had a low-level "bummed out-ness" over the summer.  I was hesitant to call it a "depression" because this is a very real thing with which many people we know struggle.  I just felt as though I wasn't getting any fulfilment or challenge.  My sense of hope was hanging on a little more loosely than I felt comfortable with.

Then, I had my first children's choir rehearsal of the season.  "Oh, yeah, that's it!"  That's what was missing.  Over the summer, whether teaching adults in sunday school classes or leading them through a discussion on a book that we have read, or working with my adult choir, I work primarily with adults.  I love these folks who are committed to the work of ministry at Good Shepherd (where I serve) but there is something different about working exclusively with people who aren't in elementary school.  We all come to rehearsals, meetings, book groups, with baggage or bias.  It's how we're wired.  As long as it doesn't prevent us from growing, it's probably OK.  Kids, however, are just learning.  They are so fresh and without opinion (the younger they are) and when they do have an opinion, it's not personal, it's very direct.

One of the lessons that I am teaching the First Choir (Kindergarten-2nd grade) is how to use a hymnal.  Some of them have trouble reading and can't count over 100, but we are learning how to use the hymnal nevertheless.  For centuries, hymnals have been central to keeping people on the same page (pardon the pun) in worship.  Therefore, if I can teach them how to use the hymnal at an early age, then hopefully its value and importance will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

The hope is that once they practice this kind of behavior in choir rehearsals, they will go out and in worship pick up the hymnal and try to be engaged in worship.  Nay-saying adults tell me that this is above the level that the kids think on  -- to that I say, "shame on you."

The hope, that kids will pick up the hymnal at least sometimes in worship, is fulfilled from time to time with great delight.  Sunday, my wife was telling me that she saw the youngest member of our choir, a 5 year old who has just started kindergarten, pick up her hymnal after the sermon, attempt to find the hymn that we were singing, fighting off the help of her father and then finally joining the song that the whole assembly was singing.

This isn't all.  A few months ago in a vespers service, I look over to see one of the first graders in my choir singing enthusiastically the psalms with the congregation.  If you watch these guys sing in a context like worship, there is a focus that they have which is unmatched in any adult.  It's not because adults are bad, it's just that we have lost something that children have.  It's a willingness to fully engage in what they are doing.  Up until a certain age (I can't quite tell at this point) kids LOVE to sing  -- then, something happens, and they join the rank of most adults who don't like to sing or feel inadequate doing so.  But, what if we could learn something from the little ones who sing without regard for the opinions or biases of anyone else?

This is what comes to mind when reading this verse.  We often think that the recounting of the works of the Lord in worship, be it through the spoken word or the sung word, is for our individual learning.  Though that might be part of it, the primary reason for the reading of texts and singing of hymns is the very proclamation of the works of the Lord; it is the recounting of the deeds of the God of Israel, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  When we sing, we sing as an assembly of young and old, passing on the song to the young.  It is this pattern of proclamation, this giving of the song, this teaching to recount the deeds of the living God that will preserve the young throughout their days. 

It is our responsiblity to train the young to sing, not to write them off as being young and somehow an exception in worship.  Does this mean that our 5 year olds are going to sit still and hang on every word in worship? Of course not!  But, it does mean that singing with our kids, praying with our kids, listening with our kids will train them in the way that they should participate in the liturgy.  As they get older, setting a standard of participation and engagement in worship will stick with them for the rest of their lives.  What a gift we have to give! 

One middle-schooler who loves to sing and keeps me going!

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