Praise the Lord, Even Today

Psalm 146, July 5, 2015

It was auntie camp at my house this last week. Sadie and Mason were with me from Monday until Friday. It does remind me what a miracle it is that anyone with small children can get anywhere – and these kids aren’t even small anymore. J Anyway, our nighttime routine was to talk about what we were grateful for from the day. Anything was fair game. But as I chewed on this psalm all week and talked it over with a friend, I wondered what if I began each day in gratitude. Before my feet touched the floor, before my to-do list spun out in front of me. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve done this consistently, and then I stop. What would it be like if you and I – what if we began our days by whispering or saying silently, or speaking out loud to someone near us what we’re thankful for, grateful for right out of the gate, before the day has unfolded. Before we wait for proof or an excuse or evidence.

This psalm sets a good precedent. Right out of the gate, the writer calls all of us to praise of God, the Lord of life. And then, and I love this, the psalmist tells himself or herself to praise God as well. Reminds herself that the praise is both communal and individual and lasts all our life long.

Yet this psalm knows what praise to God can look like in life: People are oppressed and imprisoned and considered strangers and down and out. Life has happened to them in ways that don’t always find their way into a litany of praise. Yet this psalmist shouts out what God does for all these situations: liberation and freedom and comfort and company.

When I was recovering from gall bladder surgery, it didn’t go as quickly as it does for most folks. I didn’t turn that magic corner as soon as they thought I would. And I was getting whiney. So the best thing I knew to do was to grab the insert with the prayer requests on it and start down that list. Because it forced me to look beyond myself, to pray to a God who works miracles and saves and makes things new and restarts things. And maybe, just maybe, my psalm of lament turned to praise.

This is our last Sunday in the psalms and I am sad to see it end. If you’re just getting in on it, there is a rhythm to the psalms that we’ve observed this summer. Psalms that orient us, psalms where we’re on our feet, we know up from down, all is right in our world. Then we move into a time of disorientation – a time when all the things we thought we knew are now in question, in flux. And then, finally, psalms that reorient us to knowing which way up is, but now it looks different, now that we’ve had that disorienting experience. Everything looks different.

The book of Psalms ends in full-throated praise, psalm 146 is the 3rd psalm of 7 in a row that are praise psalms. There is something poignant about that being the echo in our lives, even in the midst of despair and trouble, finally, at the end of the day, it is God who is our creator and our hope.

So I urge you to turn to the book of psalms. When you don’t know what to read or if you’re unfamiliar with the Bible or good and scared of it, this is the book to turn to. It’s in the middle of your bible and you’re going to find your voice in there. And if you don’t, know that whatever psalm you pray, you are praying for and with someone else, hundreds and thousands of others who are angry or hopeful; joyful or in despair. You join their voices, or you sing praise when they just cannot.

A favorite writer of mine, Walter Brueggeman, has this to say about the Psalms: “Thus I suggest that most of the Psalms can only be appropriately prayed by people who are living at the edge of their lives, sensitive to the raw hurts, the primitive passions, and the naive elations that are at the bottom of our life. For most of us, liturgical or devotional entry into the Psalms requires a real change of pace. It asks us to depart from the closely managed world of public survival, to move into the open, frightening, healing world of speech with the Holy One.”

Join in this conversation, this back and forth, this life-long conversation with God. To acknowledge that God knows your hurts, your joys, your raised fists and your doubt is just where the psalms live and hum.

In these songs of our lives, you will encounter the God who loves you without end. You will encounter the God who is alive and well in your life. You will get to demand for God to speak and then wait in silence.

You will encounter the God who makes new stuff out of old endings through unleashing the Holy Spirit into the midst of your mess.

You will encounter the God who executes justice for the oppressed, sets the prisoners free, feeds the hungry, gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are down, watches over the stranger, and takes care of the orphan and widow.

You will encounter a God who will eventually send Jesus, in the flesh, just to be closer to us and to show divine and human love in the most tragic and triumphant ways.

This is the God we praise all of our lives, folks. This is the God who loves you and asks you to love all the people God loves. This is the God who continues to write the song of our lives, and draws us in to sing along. What a song it is! Praise the Lord!