Psalm 146 Rejoice, give thanks and sing! 9.9.18
Hallelujah! What a joy it is to be gathered in this historic place sixty years after this Moller organ was first installed, listening to its pipes shout out praises to God. We are grateful that so many of you who have been a part of this church family in the past are able to celebrate with us today. We are grateful to those who made the current renovations to our organ possible earlier this year, including a special gift from the Hokusei Gakuen School System in Sapporo, Japan, with whom Hunting Ridge formed a bond in the 1950’s through a missionary school teacher named Dorothy Taylor. At Dorothy’s insistence, our church donated an organ to their school’s chapel many years ago, and now they have made a gift toward our organ renovation project! We are grateful to be a diverse, energetic family of Jesus who call Hunting Ridge home so that we can be Christ’s hands and feet out in the world.
Our text for today kicks off the last five psalms in the psalter which are called the “hallelujah psalms”. Each one begins and ends with Hallelujah—when we translate the Hebrew into English we get: “Praise the Lord.” How fitting for us to begin and end with Hallelujah today! Today we praise the Lord for what God has done and will do in and through this community of faith. Today we praise the Lord for the use of an organ which has been provided for us by our ancestors, an organ that is being preserved and cared for so that future generations will enjoy it’s sounds.
Several years ago, when I spoke with Michael Britt, who is the organist at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian, about the need to refurbish our 1958 organ, he seriously encouraged us to not let this musical treasure go to waste by deferring necessary maintenance. He offered to help us raise funds by giving a concert with a silent movie, which he does periodically at Brown Memorial. Thanks to generous donors, we found other ways to fund the repairs, and now have invited him to join us tonight in a celebratory concert accompanying the silent movie, The Circus. Perhaps this can become the first of a series of special community events featuring our organ! We hope to offer our organ for students of the organ to rehearse and have recitals. We want the sounds of praise to echo throughout the week from these foot-pedals and the great chest, now that they are up to snuff. Sharing and using our organ is a way to praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
This psalm details the all-encompassing praise of God and the reasons why that praise is ongoing. We don’t know the life event or events that precipitated the writing of this song of praise, but the writer is clearly overflowing with desire to praise God. Hallelujah! Let my whole being praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord with all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live. One scholar has translated verse two like this: “I will praise God through my life; I will sing praises to my God through my existence”. The message is this: in the way we live, through the actions we take, and the words we speak, we are praising God. She suggests that living out God’s values of truth, justice, and responsiveness to those in need is acknowledging God’s goodness.
The psalmist clearly differentiates between fallible humans and an infallible God. There is no sense in placing complete trust in human leaders who always disappoint—not because they are necessarily evil or bad, but because they are human, and their ideas and plans only last as long as they have breath. By contrast, God never disappoints, and God’s consistency and faithfulness is what we must place our hope in. We face mid-term elections in a few weeks, and we will be making decisions about our state and local leaders. I heard someone say, “I will put my support behind the candidate I think will win even though he might not be my first choice. I am going to be a realist.” I hope that instead we will throw our support behind the ones we think will do the best job for our country or our state or our city, the ones who have demonstrated that they live out God’s values of truth, justice and responsiveness to those who are most vulnerable in our society. We have to make decisions being aware that no one’s plans and thoughts last any longer than they do, that no candidate is perfect, and no elected politician will get it right 100% of the time.
This faithful, consistent God is deserving of our praise for many reasons. We each can make a list of why we praise the Lord stemming from our own experiences. The psalmist offers us a solid list of reasons that call forth praise at any given time. Expanding on the words of Presbyterian pastor and author Eugene Peterson in his Bible paraphrase, The Message, I have shaped a list of top ten reasons to praise God with the letter C. I invite all children who can write to find a pencil and write down the 10 C words. Adults are welcome to do the same!
We praise God because:
- God made the sky and soil, sea and all the fish in it. Hallelujuah! God is the CREATOR
- God always does what he says— Hallelujah! God is CONSISTENT
- God defends the wronged, Hallelujah! God is COMPASSIONATE
- God feeds the hungry. Hallelujah! God is CARING
- God frees the prisoners— Hallelujah! God CLEARS THE SLATE
- God gives sight to the blind, Hallelujah! God CURES
- God lifts up the fallen. Hallelujah! God CHEERS
- God protects the strangers Hallelujah! God COVERS
- God takes the side of orphans and widows. Hallelujah! God CHAMPIONS
- IN CHARGE. God’s in charge—always. Hallelujah! God is in CHARGE!
These are all good reasons to praise God. It might be a list that you can refer to when you are feeling like things are not going well, when you are stressed and complaining, when you can’t seem to make a list for yourself of personal reasons to praise God. We will post it on our website so you can refer to it….
When you come into this sanctuary you blend your voices in praise as we sing and pray together. You unite your hearts in prayer for those who are suffering in some way, another way of communicating our trust in a God who does care and cure and cheer and champion for those in need. There is no question that we praise God together when we gather in this place. My question is, how are you praising God through your life everywhere else? In what ways are you acting, thinking, voting, playing, studying, or working throughout the week that is praising God? Are you praising God that your knees can bend at the bowling alley? Are you praising God that your child is off on her own at college? Are you praising God when you make progress in your healing? Are you praising God as you interact with other drivers on the highway or on the city streets? Are you praising God with your whole being, your very self, with all of your life, both inside and outside of the church building?
This psalmist seems to indicate that praising God is non-stop. Ongoing. Always. Our ancestors chose to purchase an organ for the purpose of praising God in this place. We have chosen to refurbish it, so it will be able to be used for the next generation of praising God in this place. We celebrate and give thanks! For indeed, in contrast to our fleeting presence on this earth, God will reign forever, for all generations. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord.
There are many ways to praise the Lord—dancing, singing, serving others, playing music.
Contrast with trusting human leaders and trusting God.
God, who is faithful forever. Maker of heaven and earth, se and all that is in them. God, who gives justice to the oppressed, who gives bread to people who are starving.
The Lord frees prisoners, The Lord makes the blind see. The Lord straightens up those who are bent low. The Lord protects the immigrants, helps the orphans and widows, makes the way of the wicked twist and turn.
The Lord will rule forever.
Zion your God will rule from one generation to the next….
PRAISE THE LORD!