Praise Vocabulary

Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time on and forevermore.

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high,

who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

In 3rd grade, for show and tell, I told our class that our family had purchased a new car. I believe that’s about all I said and so my teacher, Miss Olson, prompted me asking, “What kind is it?” I answered: “red.”

Now, of course, I could tell you that last year I purchased a 2009 Subaru Forrester that has all wheel drive, is a 5 speed, and has heated seats. These are the things I went looking for when I was looking to replace my pickup. I’ve now come to appreciate the moon roof, cruise control, and automatic windows. Oh, and did I mention? It’s gray.

What kind of vehicle do you drive? What are the features you value and search out? What are the things that you own that help to define who you are? Just as farmers are passionate about the color of their farm equipment and what it says about them, we too are defined by vehicles, clothing choices, cell phone brands, neighborhoods.

Today’s psalm is a beautiful and full-throated psalm of praise of who God is and what God does. The writer is reminding us, is locating us to who this God is and what this God does because it says something about who we are, what we do. Defining who God is and what God does helps us know who we are. Psalm 113 is the equivalent of a car commercial doing its best to list all the things the car will do for you – all the things the car will say about you:

The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high,

who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

This God, our God, looks down even on the heavens. This God, our God, is above all nations – not just America but all nations.

And then, get this, this God who is high above even the heavens? This is the same God who cares about the poor. This all-powerful God of all the nations? This God raises the poor from the dust, the needy from the ash heap. This all-powerful God does not remain distant and lofty but concerns Gods own self with the likes of the most lowly, the most powerless, the ones without voice, the ones sobbing in the night longing for a child. This is how God comes to us. This is who God loves. This is how God acts. This almighty and powerful creator of the universe comes down to us, comes straight to our problems. And wants a relationship with us. And wants to be part of our lives. Wants to save us. Wants to give us a new identity.

It’s astounding isn’t it?

Because sometimes we get ideas about God. We get ideas about what God can and cannot do, much like what a vehicle or a smart phone can and cannot do. And I don’t know about you, but when I get ideas about God – well, let’s just say God gets smaller.

When, at the end of the day, I can acknowledge fear and doubt more than confidence and love for God, then I know my belief in who God is and what God can do has gotten smaller. At the end of days like that, my descriptions of God have not been about God being all-powerful and present in my life and in yours – but distant and small and disconnected and powerless. And when this moment of clarity comes over me that I’ve shut God out, that I’ve underestimated God, my prayer becomes, “How big is your God, Laura?” And that swings wide the door open into confession and conversation with God that my heart has been longing for all along.

When has your description of, your belief in God been limited like mine? When has your description of who God is and what God does been reduced to a mono-syllabic 3rd grade response of “red.” Is it when you’re waiting for a diagnosis? Or as you worry about students who will be hungry this summer or who are dreading being home, the last place they feel safe? Does your version of God get small when your calendar is too full and you can’t catch your breath and the work never ends? Does your description of God get small as you watch your children struggle, as your relationship ends, as you fret about your finances?

You see, Psalms of praise are sung in the full knowledge of the reality of life. They are written and sung knowing there is suffering and hardship, bad days and tragedies. Psalms of praise seem out of place, even obscene when we are in the midst of struggle. Yet, this is why they exist: Psalms of praise get us to see the world as God sees it.

And how does God see the world? God sees the world through the lens of love and it is in the shape of the cross. God sees the world and knows it is not a lost cause. God sees the world as a constant act of re-creation. God does not shun the hard stuff, the tragedies, the suffering but instead, as the Psalmist reminds us today, comes right into the middle of it. God mourns with those who struggle with infertility, with hunger, with life. And then he sets them right next to princes. God does not further isolate or wave a magic wand to fix our troubles.. No, God instead puts us in each other’s lives. God insists we have relationships with one another. God insists we love each other.

This psalm of praise calls out the very thing that can bring us to despair. And yet, it is still a psalm of praise. We praise God even as we worry and wait and struggle. We praise God even though we know homelessness and hunger abound. We praise God, knowing God meets us right where it gets tough; knowing God sends us to help others right where it gets tough.

Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord.