Last week, I introduced this series on Drinking deeply from the Psalms. For the better part of this summer, my sermons will be taken from various Psalms. My hope is that we will drink together from the deep and refreshing well that is the Psalms, that these words will be life giving water which hydrates and sustains us, spiritually. It is my request that throughout this summer we all take time to read the Psalms in their entirety in our daily devotions and scripture reading, drawing life from all that Psalms have to say, not just the few from which I have chosen to preach. In my sermon last week I proposed two things about the Psalms. Firstly, the Psalms are our words to God from us. They are words of worship and praise, words of trust and faith, as well as words of sorrow, pain, lament and anger. I also said that there are Psalms for every season of our lives, not just the flourishing and growing seasons, not just the seasons of abundance and harvest, but also the bleak seasons, when everything is falling apart and the world is cold and dark, when it seems like everything is death and destruction.
When I was in grade school I can remember my mother having me memorize scripture. I can remember her teaching me to pray the Lord's prayer, which filled my young mind with the glory and majesty of God. And as with most children there was more one thing I did not quite understand. For instance, I always wondered why we wanted God's eagle to come; “On earth, as it did in Heaven.” The eagle of God must be a pretty amazing thing. I was convinced that it was because of this heavenly eagle, for which we were longing, that my Father liked the American symbol of the bald eagle so much. Sometimes I am still disappointed that there is not some majestic heavenly eagle, which we are calling to alight on the Earth, who will bring us the peace and security that it provides in Heaven .
Not only did my mother teach me the Lord's Prayer, but she also had me memorize two Psalms as well. She taught me the 23rd Psalm, and Psalm 100. Although I loved the beautiful imagery and the flowery language of Psalm 23, I liked Psalm 100 better. It was shorter and easier to remember.
This Psalm comes from the joyful seasons of our life, when we trust in the order of God's universe. They are the words we write, when we know that God is good and the world is full of the wonderful and amazing things God has provided for us. It is a call for us all to come together and worship. Although it is a Psalm of words we say when our lives are full of the good things of God, it is also a reminder to worship God at all times in our lives. The call to worship and praise we hear in this passage is a call we give to ourselves and to one another that is written in the light, when our world is bright and beautiful, but it is also our call to one another and to ourselves that reminds us to worship and praise when our world is dark and bleak. It is a reminder that worship and praise are not just things for the joyful seasons of our life, but worship is our call, praise is our language, even when all the fig trees are bare, all the oxen have died and the world around us is falling apart, and seems to be filled with nothing but death and destruction.
Psalm 100 is a call to worship. This Psalm calls to us, each of us, to all of us, and for all the earth to give praise to the Lord, our God. Within these 5 short verses there are seven instructions we are given. We are to: Make a joyful noise, Worship God, Come sing, Know God, Enter with thanksgiving, Give thanks, and Bless God's name. This psalm calls us to full and well-rounded worship. This is a call to all the people of God to come together and give glory to God.
When I pastored in Mulvane, when the pianist was sick and the music leader could not make it and I led music, accapella, I was always thankful for this Psalm. Actually whenever I sing, I am thankful for this Psalm, because we are not asked to lift our beautiful, angelic voices, and bring before God our glorious harmonies, with tripping, melodies. No we are told that noises will do, as long as they are joyful.
The Wesley brothers, John and Charles, the former being the founder of the Methodist movement from which we as Nazarene's have come, the later being a prolific hymn writer, who wrote some of the most beautiful and theologically sound hymns in our hymn book, both complained that the church people of their day did not sing. Well not so much that they did not sing but they treated their times of worship and hymns singing as a tedious chore which needed to be done, like medicine which must be taken.
When they instructed their people in worship, they told them that the melodic nature of their singing was not of primacy but the joyful heart with which they were to come to worship should come out in the gusto and the heartiness of their worship, even if their physical short comings did not allow it to come out in beauty. In short they told their people that although they could not guarantee that the noises which came from their mouths were things of beauty, they could guarantee that they were joyful, as this Psalm calls for worship to be.
This ties into the next instruction, which is that we should be filled with gladness, a sense of being pleased, at what we are saying and doing, when we worship God. Again this is not a tedious chore, which must be accomplished. It is not a mandated ordinance that we fulfill with all the gladness of taking out the trash. This also ties into what the Wesley brothers said in their worship instructions, saying our singing should be full of life, not as if we are half-dead. Worship is pleasing; pleasing to God and pleasing to us. We should find some amount of pleasure in our worship. It is not only designed to be pleasing to God whom we worship but is to also be pleasing to all those are participating in the worship. Worship is good for the soul, in more than one way.
All this is tied into the instruction for us to come into God's presence with singing. Come before the Lord, filled with joy and gladness singing songs of worship and praise. This Psalm being our words to God, is a Psalm which reminds us not so much what worship is but how we are to worship. The Psalm is not instruction on what songs we sing, or exactly what we do when we worship, stand, sit, lift our hands (either one or two), close our eyes, whatever. We are told about our attitude toward worship. At all times, in all seasons, worship is to be joyful and fill us with gladness. Our songs should be heartfelt and sung from the depths of our being, no matter what the circumstances of our life.
Worship is also does things for us. It helps us know God. At the beginning of service I always pray that as we gather, that we will come to know God that we will know what it means to love God and to be loved by God. Worship does just this, it helps us know God and who we are in relation to God. We are God's beloved people, taken care of watched over as sheep are by a good and kind shepherd who provides for us and leads us.
Because of God's provision we come into God's presence, into God's sanctuary with praise and thanksgiving. And we are to bless God’s name. We thank God for all the great and wonderful things God has done for us and for God's people. And we bless God's name, which is tell others about the goodness and greatness of God.
Worship is not only for God; it not only for us, worship reminds us that there is a world out there, with whom we are to share our God. We are to not only thank God and give God praise for all the good and wonderful things in our lives, but we are to share with others about how good and wonderful our God is. Even our worship is designed to reach out and gather others in. Even as we are called to worship God, we are always reminded that our God is not only our God, for us, but our God is the God of all the earth. And it is part of our responsibility to share with the world around us the goodness and greatness of our God.
In the end that is exactly why we give praise and worship to God. At the end, Psalm 100 reminds us why it is we worship and give praise to God. It tells us for what we are thankful and what it is God has done that is pleasing and has filled us with the joy with which we sing, and give praise. Our God is good; the love God has for us endures forever and God’s faithfulness is to all, generation, after generation, it has no end.
When our lives are full of goodness and wonder, when everything around is us green and growing we give praise to God. With the words of the Psalms, we call to one another and tell each other to come before God with thankfulness, to fill our worship with gladness and the words of or our worship with joy. But Psalm 100, although written with the joyful words of the good times, is a Psalm which also speaks to us in times of sorrow and pain. It calls to us when the land of our lives is barren, when there is no fruit, when the harvest is less than plentiful and it reminds us even when our hearts break and tears fill the days (and nights of our lives), to worship. To dig deep into the well of steadfast love, to remember God’s faithfulness and see that our God is good. It calls for us to come into God’s presence, to gather with God’s people, worship with the remembered gladness, to recall how thankful we have been in the past and give God thanks and praise, and it reminds us although in these dark times we may not be able to bring beauty and wonder to God, that whatever noise we are able to bring can still draw from the deep well of joyfulness God with which God has provided in the past. Our God is good, even when everything seems bad. Our God is loving, even went the circumstances of our lives fill us with anger. Our God’s faithfulness is steadfast even, when everything else in our lives withers, fades, dies and abandons us. God is still there. And for that we continually give God the thanks and praise.