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Psalm 100

May 3, 2020

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.


Friends, if you are in need of a good laugh during this time, well then I would encourage you check out the Babylon Bee. The Babylon Bee is a website devoted to Christian satire, and they have no problem poking at just about every corner of the greater Christian culture, even including us Presbyterians. Now, let’s be honest, us Presbyterians aren’t exactly known for being the most emotive or expressive of people, at least not compared to our Baptist, or Pentecostal brothers and sisters. Where as they like to jump up and down and wave their hands in the air to any given worship song, we Presbyterians like to keep things close to the vest and our hands at 10 and 2 at all times.

So here’s the fake Babylon Bee headline –

Motion censored lights turn off half way through Presbyterian worship service.

I repeat – Motion censored lights turn off half way through Presbyterian worship service.

And if you’re not getting the joke, well then join us on our Zoom call after the service where I’ll be happy to explain more.

Anyway, I think sometimes you and I believe that when we come before God, whether that’s through attending worship, or bible reading or prayer, that we need to come to him in an overtly serious, straight laced, maybe even somber manner.

And yet, apparently given this Psalm and many other Psalms like it, you and I are enter worship in a very different manner –

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

It’s impossible to miss the tone here, the way in which we are to approach God. The Psalmist uses words like joyful and gladness. Later he’ll use words such as thanksgiving, praise and bless.

Now, I should clarify something here, and that is, I would be making an unfair connection to equate a certain kind of worship style, or a certain style of music to a particular emotion, such as joy or gladness. That’s not fair, or right even. Truth is, the joy or gladness that we bring into worship or that characterizes our worship is far more so dependent on the posture of hearts and minds, rather than the kinds of songs we sing.

Yet all this to say, how about you this Sunday morning, on this first Sunday of May, how do you hear the Psalmist’s words …

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness;

Do you find yourself nodding in agreement or shaking your head because mentally and emotionally you’re just not there right now?

If you’re feeling the latter this morning, where if this all sounds a little too rosy and bubbly and optimistic, well, I get that. You’re probably not alone in that feeling.

Maybe you’re feeling depressed, or weary, or stressed out, or are grieving the loss of things big and small. That’s understandable. I feel that a bit myself.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that I make sense of the world best through sports analogies, so here’s the one that comes to mind in this COVID-19 season.

When it became clear sometime in mid-March that COVID-19 was going to upend our lives and rhythms as we knew it, it felt like we all got ready to run a race and the guy at the starting line told us we’d be running 10 miles. Okay, fine, I thought, it’s going to hurt, it’s not going to be pretty, and though I don’t really want to, I can run 10 miles. And yet as we then reached the end of the stay at home order and were introduced to Phase 1, all of which was a stark reminder that things are not returning to normal, it felt like we each got to the finish line, tired and spent, and the race director looked at us and said, ‘Alright, you made it. Now go run 10 more.’ Pretty deflating, right?

So maybe a psalm of praise and thanksgiving, of joy and gladness, might be the last thing we want to hear at this point, and maybe even a little tone deaf on my part. Maybe a more somber Psalm would have been more appropriate.

And for what it’s worth, the Book of Psalms is filled with psalms that express or capture those very feelings, they’re called Psalms of Lament, often characterized by a ‘How long, O Lord’ type sentiment, and in fact, when you tally up the various kinds of Psalms within the entire book, there are more psalms of lament than there are any other kind. And I’m sure in the next few weeks, we’ll look at a couple of them.

But for today, we come to a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving, of joy and gladness, singing and blessing.

And I think in many ways, we have to. We simply won’t be able make it through this season, or run this race if we don’t on a regular basis take time to make a joyful noise to the Lord and give thanks to Him for who He is and what He has done or is doing for us at this time. To go through this season void of praise and thanksgiving of any kind, would cause us lose our minds, maybe even our very souls. We have to take time to notice and enjoy the occasional sunshine that breaks through the clouds.

One of the things, likely the signature thing that ought to lead us to a place of praise and thanksgiving in this season is by simply reflecting on who God is and who we are in relationship to Him.

The Psalmist says,

Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his, we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

It is he that made us, and we are his.

Here’s a principle that you and I know well – we take care of what belongs to us, and even more, the things we make ourselves. If you buy a house, you take care of it so that it’s a safe and beautiful place to live. Yet if you build the house yourself, you may take care of it even more intentionally. And even more, if you have a kid, you take care for and protect them and nurture them like they’re the most precious thing you’ve got.

The same is true with God. God takes care of what belongs to him. That’s just who he is and what he does! And if we are sheep as the Psalmist says, that means he’s our Shepherd. That’s what shepherds do. Now, I’ll admit to be called sheep is not exactly the most flattering comparison the world has ever seen – after all, sheep can’t feed themselves, can’t provide for themselves or protect themselves. So yeah, not very flattering. But that’s okay because the image of a sheep and shepherd isn’t meant to inspire confidence in ourselves, but rather in the one who Shepherds over us. God takes care of what He’s made and belongs to Him.

Later in our Psalm, we’re told that …

his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

And this word ‘steadfast love’ is two words in English, but yet just one word in the original Hebrew. And the word is ‘hesed.’ Go ahead and say that with me or to the person next to you. ‘Hesed.’

Okay, that was good, I need you to put a little more ‘h’ into yourhesed. So try again, Hesed.Alright, much better.

Hesed is a powerful combination of two of the things we need most in life. Hesed is the combination of love the feeling with love the commitment. It’s love and commitment rolled into one. It’s a kind of love that has staying power.

That’s the kind of love God has for us – it’s a hesed kind of love.

As a way of reminding themselves of this truth about God, the Israelites named what we would call a stork, a hasidah, which sounds like hesed.They admired the stork because when it laid its eggs it put them in a nest on top of a tree or in the crags of a cliff and then would stay with its eggs. Even if another predator came, the stork stayed. The stork stuck it out, as opposed to the ostrich who would lay its eggs anywhere, and where as soon as trouble came its way, the ostrich would run and abandon its eggs. But not the stork. Not the hasidah.And not our God – our hesedloving God.

Friends, do you see how it is that we can …

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness;

It’s because our God cares for what belongs to Him. He cares for all that He’s created me. And his love has a staying power that cannot be taken away no matter what, no matter how long this COVID-19 season, no matter how much we are forced to give up or go without, no matter how many miles we’re told to run.

Now one of the ways that we worship God and come before him with joy and gladness is by giving him thanks and rejoicing in who he is and what he has done or is doing for us in this season.

The Psalmist says,

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.

So friends, what are you thankful for in this season? Could be something big or small or something in between. Maybe you’re thankful for the ways in which God has provided through the means of his people during this time - whether it be teachers, or doctors, our law enforcement or grocery store workers.

Or maybe you’re thankful for some of the surprise joys and blessings that this season has brought this way. Now, again, make no mistake about it, there are some real losses in this season, but yet I know that for so many of us, there have also been some surprise joys and blessings as well. Another way to phrase it, what’s been a ‘redemptive turn’ in all of this? Throughout history our God has been in the business of bringing good out of evil, joy out of hardship, life out of death, and as scripture says, God works all things together for good for those who love him.

So what’s been a surprise joy or blessing or redemptive turn that you want to give thanks to God for?

When it comes to our church, one of the things I’m so very thankful for is seeing how God is working through you all and the ways in which you’re intentionally caring for one another and our church family over these past few weeks. Whether it’s phone calls or handwritten cards grocery runs or home maintenance, I’m watching you all rally around one another in beautiful ways displaying the love of Christ to one another. So thank you.

When it comes to my family and me, Sunday mornings have been a surprise joy for our family of three in this season. Of course most Sundays, I’m in the Sanctuary worshipping with you in person and to be clear I love that and miss that, I wouldn’t have said yes to this calling if that weren’t the case. But Sunday mornings these last few weeks have made for some wonderful family time. Every morning, we go for a drive, it’s our only way of accessing the radio, and so at this very moment we’re driving the dirt roads that weave their way around the Beaverhead River, listening in while Noah eats breakfast and plays with his toys in the backseat. And then later in the morning, after our Zoom call where we get to see your wonderful faces, we make a big breakfast and watch the live stream from our previous church and get to see what they’re up to. It’s different, it’s not ideal, it’s not what I want for the long haul, but it’s been a surprise joy for sure.

So what about you? What do you want to thank God for in this season? I asked this very question on Facebook this past Friday and here’s what some people said …

Cindy Coadsaid, We are very grateful that with even more time with Ed, it is clear that God is in our lives and that he is part of our marriage. For a beautiful home that includes a fabulous porch where we can sit and speak with those who wander by.

Raquel Morast said, I am thankful for the more than normal family meals we’ve eaten together

Marie Hamilton said, For connection in distancing

Barb Malesich said I am so thankful that we get to spend more time with son Kolby and his family; So glad we live in Montana where we have wide open spaces to enjoy Gods’ beauty.

My wife Callie said, I’m grateful for the ways in which god has grown my patience and appreciation for the simple and mundane. I’m not sure if that says more about life with me or life with Noah … it doesn’t matter …

So what’s been a surprise joy or blessing or redemptive turn that you want to give thanks to God for?

I once heard of someone, who in an effort to cultivate a greater sense of thankfulness towards God, would put five coins in his left pocket each morning. And by the end of the day it was his goal to move all five coins to his right pocket, moving a coin from left to right for each thing he was thankful for. Could be a thing big or small. A conversation with a neighbor. A prayer answered. A backyard bonfire. The way God spoke to you when you read his word one morning. The fact that Safeway got a new shipment of rice or peanut butter.

5 things that each day that you’re thankful for. Of course, you can come up with your own practices and habits for cultivating thankfulness, but this I know for sure, in order to get through this season, in order to run this race, we need to continually and regularly praise God and give Him thanks as we go.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Amen.

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