Sunday, August 27, 2017

United - Ephesians 4:1-16

Before the Nazarenes broke off from the Methodists, before the Church of England separated themselves from Rome, before the protestant reformation or even the schism which separated the Western Church in Rome from the Eastern Church in Constantinople, there was the argument between school of Christian thought that came out of Alexandria and that of Antioch. For better and worse, it seems there have always been things that have caused divisions in the Church. Arguments and the inability to come to an agreement that have led to divisions in the greater Church, which have resulted in the fractured Church as we know it it today, as well as those that have led to the splitting of a congregation, which have led to broken relationships and dissension between people that have led at times to generations of animosity.
We have all heard about the congregation that literally split apart over disagreements between individuals who attend. Whether it be over something as mundane as the color of the new carpet or the color of the newly refinished women's bathroom or over a disagreement over a theological matter, these things are no entirely uncommon. In Mulvane, the little town of 5,000 where Mike and pastored before we came here, there were two congregations of the same denomination whose buildings were blocks a part. What ever divide they had was so great that members of the two congregations would not speak to each other and did not believe that anyone who attended the other was actually really a Christian.
Our congregation, unfortunately is not immune to this phenomenon either. After, Rev Short passed the congregation asked their new young associate minister to take his place. There was some disagreement over “the manner which the Rev officiated communion” and something about how he was taking in new members. The Church board minutes during this time got very interesting, with the board holding a special meeting of the Church, the DS intervening, ending in the good Rev defying the instructions of the DS to ride out his term as pastor and leaving suddenly in January. After that a suspicious number of people left membership to “go join that other church.” When they began looking for a new pastor, they made sure that the new pastor served communion “in the manner of Rev. Short.”
Divisions among Christians is not a new are unique problem, it is something that seems to have been enough of a problem to be a concern even as early as when Paul wrote this letter to the members of the Church in Ephesus. Paul wants us to know that we are one in Christ, that we are united through Christ. Together we make up the ONE body of Christ, and as such we are united not only through the Spirit and through the one in whom we hope (Christ Jesus), and because we all share the hope of the second resurrection, but we are also united because there is but one Lord; Jesus Christ, in whom we all believe, one faith; our belief in the salvific work of Christ through his life, death and resurrection; one baptism; all of us being baptized into this one faith in which we all believe in the name of the one Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and lastly we all believe in One father; one God who is forever Triune, one Father, who remained in heaven and eternal, who sent the Son through whom we find salvation and the Spirit sent to remain with us after Christ return to heaven, all three co-equal forming the One eternal God, who is above all, works in us all to bring salvation and life eternal and who works through us all for the betterment of the Kingdom.
First and foremost, as believers we are united, we are one together forming the kingdom of God bringing the truth and good news of Jesus Christ to the world around us (this is the work God does through us). We are united in our love of Christ and our love for one another. We are united in our support and encouragement of each other. Our unity through Christ comes first. We all make up the building, of which Christ is the corner stone, we are all adopted, members of one family, brothers, sisters and co-heirs with Christ. All things, which Paul has made a point to explain thus far in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus.
Paul also wants us to know that not only are we united, not only are we one, but we are one body, made up of different parts, all working together to accomplish the work and will of God and to spread the truth of the Gospel with our world.
We are diverse individuals, who come together, united in Christ. We are not uniform, we are not clones, we are not cookies, all cut with the same cutters, mirror images of one another. We are all different, different parts, with different functions, with different skills, and different purposes, functioning, using our skills and working together for the betterment of the kingdom of God. In the unity we form in Christ we are all different parts of the same body moving and working together so that the body can move through the world performing the tasks God has set out for us to do.
Paul tells us that as we come together, God has given us different functions, different skills, different gifts and talents that when we all work together we are the body of Christ, working together, so that the body of Christ can function and work, so that the truth of the gospel can be seen in us and be worked through us. God is at work in us and through us so that the kingdom can be furthered, so that the body of Christ can be the people of God together.
My girls are really into making their own Lego creations right now. They have an amazing amount of legos and almost every day it seems they spend hours making things, boats, houses, cars, whatever their imaginations can think of. Each creation it made up of hundreds of little pieces. Each piece holds a different place in the creation. They are different shapes, they are different sizes, they are different colors, some of them are even transparent. Each Lego on its own is just a Lego; a little round green cylinder, a brown square brick, a thin transparent rectangle, but you put them all together they make a house complete with little Lego furniture. Each Lego holds its own place in the creation, each one serves a specific function. Each one does its own thing, and on their own not very impressive, but together they are pretty cool. And the entire creation would not be complete, would be missing something if even one was missing, or was swapped with another piece. The creation is dependent upon each piece being in the proper place and serving its proper function. In fact, when they are building these creations, and they need a particular piece, they will fish through all of the pieces for quite a bit of time, in order to find just the right piece, because when they need a clear rectangle piece, green square piece, a brown cylinder, or whatever particular piece it is for which they are hunting, no other piece will do. The creation will not be right, if they do not have the one piece for which they are looking.
This is the way it is with the Church, each one of us are different, we have different skills, different personalities, different things at which we excel, but we all come together as a congregation, as the people of God, all working together to be the Church, the body of Christ God is calling us to be. Whatever piece in God's creation of the Church we are, we are important, we have a particular function. The Church needs us. We all may be different, and all of us have different skills we bring to body, and all those skills, and talents are needed for us to be the congregation God is calling us to be. All of our differentness comes together to form the amazing creation God is building here called the Cambridge Church of the Nazarene. And all of us need to use our skills, our gifts, our talents so that this creation God is forming us to be together can function and work properly. So that together we can do the work God is calling us to do here in Cambridge.
What ever it is that we do, whether our talent is in leading or playing music, is cooking amazing dishes to bring to fellowship meals or to take to someone in need, or writing letters, or helping us set up at the park, all these things are needed for us to be THIS Church, to be the church as it functions here, for us to be the Church God is calling us to be.

Paul tells us that these different gifts, these different skills and talents are all given to us for the building of the body, for the betterment of the kingdom. When we are all working together to do the work God has set out for us. When we are all utilizing our skills and talents, when we are all working together, functioning as the unity which we are, in Christ, then the kingdom of God grows, the body becomes healthy and strong.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

No Divisions - Ephesians 2:11-22

In ancient Great Britain they built Hadrian's Wall, in China there is the Great Wall of China, there are lesser known walls in Peru and Turkey, for 50 years the city of Berlin was split down the center.  To avert any thought that this is only stuff that happens in the past, today there is a wall along the border of the Western Bank of Israel. In case we think it is something that only happens “over there” or somewhere “far off”, there is much talk in our nation right now about creating a wall along our own southern border. Throughout history people have built walls. Walls make us feel protected, they make us feel safe. They let us know who belongs and who does not. They separate Us from Them. We build these walls telling ourselves that we are just protecting ourselves. Because on some level we believe the “them” we are trying to keep out, if they ever breech the wall, will do us harm.
But the only walls we build are not only the ones we build with stone or wood, with brick and mortar, cement and barbed wire, we build walls in our minds, with our words, with our actions, with the rhetoric we uphold, the institutions we support, and the injustices we ignore. We allow ourselves to be duped by stories of protection and well-being, about safety and what is for our own good. We tell ourselves that “they” are different from us; that those people are not like us, they think differently, they act differently, their lifestyle and their view of the world is so fundamentally different from us that there can be nothing that can breach the divide, there are no bridges to be made, there is no way we can ever trust them. Sometimes, even when we fundamentally believe the divisions to be wrong we turn a blind eye to them because we do not believe there is anything we can do to change them.
Rhetoric of hatred and intolerance, obvious and blatant, racism which we all oppose, stand beside the institutional and underlying mechanisms in which we all participate that uphold the divisions in our country. But this is not a problem that simply exists in our country. It is easy to get so caught up in the story we have here in the US, and we forget that racism and prejudice is not something at which we alone excel.
In Romania we encountered racism between the general populous of Romania and the Roma people who are sometimes called gypsies. This racism has been practiced throughout Europe for over a 1,000 years and is so entrenched in the society, that a missionary friend of mine who brought his two adopted daughters, who were born in India, with him, were often stopped in the street because of color of their skin, eyes and hair, and told that they needed to be careful, because even if they adopted those girls at birth, a Roma child will grow to steal from them by the time they were two.
The Catholics and the Protestants until very recently were killing each other in Ireland for centuries. And even when we went to Canada, which I have often thought was a place that was untouched by the racism we experience here in the US, we encountered a prejudice against the French that still manages to baffle me. Even without walls of stone, brick or wire we build walls between ourselves keeping out those who are different than us and gathering all those who are like us within so that we can all feel safe and secure together.
In Israel, at the dawn of the very first century, when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, and later when the apostles taught in the synagogues and the town gathering places, the Jewish population did much to separate themselves from outsiders, specifically from Gentiles, who were basically anyone who was not born Jewish. In the temple there were three courts. The innermost court was for Jewish males. The one outside of that was for Jewish females. Outside of these two courts was the court of the Gentiles. By the name you would think this was the place for unbelievers, but that is not so. Unbelievers were not allowed within the temple courts at all. The court of the Gentiles was reserved for non-Jewish believers, sometimes called God-fearers. Even once they came to believe in the one and only God of the universe, even when they lived as God called them to live, and worshiped the Lord our God alone, they were still unworthy to worship alongside of Jewish believers. They were believers, but they were still outsiders, still not good enough. Gentiles, no matter their devotion to God and to the people of God, could never be good enough. They would never be allowed to worship fully; never be fully included; they would always be on the outside.
Very early on, the Church declared that believers were believers no matter where they came from, whether they were circumcised or not. Jesus healed the Jew and the Gentile, the faith of Peter was set alongside of that of the Syrophonetician woman. The early church took Jesus' inclusivity to heart and declared that all believers were equal, that all believers were accepted and adopted, were all a part of a united body, equal in the sight of the Lord. In Galatians Paul tells us, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ all were equal, there were no dividing wall that allowed only some to enter and kept others out. Jesus came to break down the walls that divided Jews and Gentiles so that everyone no matter their nationality, social status or gender could be accepted as a member of the body of Christ.
As humans, we may be good at building and making walls, but Christ is good at demolishing them, rendering them useless, uniting all in his name, bringing together people of different nationalities, different races, different socioeconomic levels, and all genders. No matter what kind of divisions we can make between ourselves, Jesus draws us all unto himself and in himself we are made one, united in our love of God and our belief in Christ.
Jesus, through his death and resurrection basically erased the dividing walls in the temple. Jesus declared that in Christ there was not one place for the included and another for the excluded. In Christ all are called equally and all are accepted equally. As believers we are called to live in peace with one another, no matter who the “other” is. We are to live lives that reflect the love and acceptance demonstrated in Christ's life, death and resurrection. We are to love everyone equally, as Christ loves, we are to accept equally as Christ accepts. The inclusivity of salvation is lived out in our lives, in how we treat our fellow human beings. Jesus is not about walls, Jesus is not about division. Jesus is not about keeping us separated one from another. Jesus loves, Jesus accepts, Jesus calls all unto himself and desires for us all to be united in him, for we all are called to accept salvation, to be children of redemption, to live out our adoption as Children of God. Jesus came to tear down the walls in our lives, in our society in our world and unite us all in his name.
Our lives are surrounded by walls, we live amongst the walls, they are all around us and we are so use to them, they have become invisible to most of us. We may know they are there, but we are able to ignore them, allow them to go unseen because so often they make us feel comfortable. They make us feel safe. Even when we look up and actually look at them, and see them for what they are, we feel overwhelmed and feel as if there is nothing any one of us can do to rid ourselves of them. They are too thick, too big, too entrenched in the ground on which we walk, and too much a part of the infrastructure which builds our world. It seems as if there is no way to remove them all. We accept them as a part of the way the world works, sometimes we even tell ourselves that they help society to run smoothly. 
Ultimately, these walls are there because of and are built because of fear, and as a wise green puppet once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Walls and divisions, no matter how benign we want to convince ourselves they are, are built because of hate and fear. And although we may not be adherents of the gospel of Yoda, his words are in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no room for fear and hatred in the lives of believers. As believers we are admonished in 1 John 2:9-11, “Whoever says, 'I am in the light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.” There is no room for hatred in the life of a believer. No one who claims to love God, can hate another, and because walls and divisions are ultimately tools and emblems of hatred. We are also not a people who build walls and barriers for any reason. In fact as followers of Christ and people who take the call of scripture, such as the one before us this morning, seriously we are to be people who break down the walls and the dividing lines.
As Christians there is no room for dividing walls in our lives. Walls are built to keep others out.  We may tell ourselves that the walls are built to keep us safe.  Those on the other side are out to destroy us, to hurt us, to tear us apart. They are against us. By building walls we are declaring that we, who are on the inside, are right and those on the outside are wrong. We are making ourselves out to be inherently good and the other to be inherently bad.  We are against them, they are against us. And each time we do something, say something, or contribute to the stories of division and hated that our society tells, we are deepening the divide between us, strengthening the animosity, making the gap bigger and the gorge deeper. Whenever we participate in these stories, we are enforcing hatred and distrust; we are showing ourselves to NOT be of Christ.
As we walk through this maze of walls in which we live, we need to begin by examining the walls we ourselves have built. The ways we have sided ourselves with all the Us'es and separated ourselves from all the them's. What walls to do we uphold because they feel safe, because they separate us from other people? What ways do which we see them over there as clearly wrong and evil, and ourselves as clearly good and right? In what ways are we allowing our fear to build hatred in our lives that will ultimately lead to suffering, our own as well as that of others? In what ways are do we allow prejudice to weedle its ways into to our lives? We need to begin by looking up at those walls we have built in our minds and in our lives and begin to remove the walls we ourselves have built from the garden or walls in our own lives.
Our lives, as Christians, as believers, are lived without walls, without division, without hatred. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  As believers we cannot participate in the systems, the rhetoric, and the belief structures, the institutions in our society and in our world which build up the walls between us. Instead it is our divine calling to love one another and to join with Christ Jesus himself in breaking down the walls, healing the divides and bridging the gaps that are built all around us. Where ever there is a gorge we are to be the bridge. Where ever there is a wall we are to be wreaking balls. Wherever there is a gap, we are to work to draw the two sides together. Wherever there is a wound we are to be the sutures that encourage healing. We are to be a people of peace and unity, bringing healing to our world, to our society, to our country wherever and whenever possible. So that whoever is far off may be brought close and so that where there was once two peoples there will now only be one. Let us join together and tear down the walls, break down the divisions, and destroy the fences. Let us create one where there used to be many.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Church United - Ephesians 1:1-14

    Ephesians 1:3-14
Ephesians begins with blessing the God who blesses. Giving back to God what God gives to us. God giving us what we give God in return. A circle of blessing; a circle which keeps on rolling, keeps on giving and moves us forward, always going round and round, never stopping always revolving. In this passage, this circle seems to be at the heart of Paul’s understanding of adoption, redemption, and salvation, for all these things are done for the purpose of praising the God of glory. All these gifts are freely given so we may live lives of praise, lives of blessing and being blessed. The image presented in this passage, is one in which we are continually moving, constantly living the praise. Breathing, moving, acting out the blessing always in motion toward God as God is always in motion toward us. God blessing us, us blessing God, living, breathing praise; cycling around and around, no beginning, no end. Not just singing praise, not just being receptacles of blessing but moving in it, living it, allowing it to affect our words, our actions, our interactions; allowing our praise of the God of glory to infiltrate every part of our very being so that it completely alters how we live our lives as we then give it back to God.
The God whom we bless, the God who blesses us, is the God who chose us. Chose US, not merely you and me. It is our tendency to read Paul as if he is talking specifically to individuals but he is primarily speaking to a church as a unit, in passages such as this he is speaking to all of us together, to us as the Church. God chose the existence of the Church, God chose the people of God. When Paul speaks of being chosen before the foundation of the world, Paul is speaking of the Church. God did not specifically chose the who’s the individuals before the foundation of the world but God chose the Church, the body, the Community of Christ. God did not specifically choose you and me before the dawn of time but he chose US (truly is it God’s choice that all accept that all are a apart of the Church but many choose differently). He chose for there to be a people of God. God chose to be in relationship with humanity. God chose the Church to gather. God chose for the body to live.
And what did God chose for us? To what are we chosen? We are chosen to be in Christ, to be the Body, to be the Church. The church is chosen to BE in Christ and as that which resides in Christ, as that which is the make up of Christ; we are to be holy and blameless before God in love. Holy and blameless not merely in actions but in love, the greatest commandment given by God being for us to love God with every part of who we are and to love our neighbors as well. The church is called to be holy and blameless. Together we are to be Christ, together we are to reflect Christ and his dieing love to our community and our world and that reflection should be as clean, as new, as pure and as holy as the one whom we reflect.
As those who are set aside, destined, chosen to be the body in Christ, we are children, adopted, loved, accepted, brought into to the inner circle. We have been brought in freely, not because of anything we as individuals did to gain acceptance but because by believing, and accepting the truth of Christ we become apart of a great whole which is in turn accepted and adopted. We have become the family we have become those chosen for the blessing of God and to be blessed by God. We are the Community who praises.
Those who are redeemed, those accept the truth of the Word, who is Christ, who are believers in the gospel and receivers of salvation are those who are apart of the chosen, accepted and adopted. We believe and are accepted; we accept the truth and are redeemed; we receive the gospel and become a part of the Community. We are in Christ; we are the body; we are the family.
We are adopted and accepted and as a part of the family we are receivers of the inheritance. When we think of an inheritance from God, this probably makes most us think of immediately of Heaven, that place out there to which we will go some day. This idea of and an inheritance makes us think of eternal life, or the life here-after, the life beyond the grave. But the inheritance spoken of here is NOT heaven. When we start to think of an inheritance as something that we get when we die, we really have the concept of what an inheritance is all backwards. We don’t receive an inheritance when we die, we receive and inheritance when someone else dies. Our inheritance as children of God, is contingent not upon our dieing but upon Christ dieing.
The inheritance spoken of here is bigger and better than Heaven. It is the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, it is Jesus Christ himself. Our inheritance is the truth. Our inheritance is the gift of grace of which Paul speaks. Our inheritance is exactly that which we accepted which brought us into and made us a part of the body; our inheritance is that which drew us into the family in the first place. We were outside of the family. God offered us the inheritance, the gift of grace the truth of the gospel. God showed us Christ in his life, death and resurrection. We accepted the truth, we took the gift, we believed in Christ. We received the inheritance. That which brings us into the family, that which allows us to be adopted is the inheritance we receive as children.
The glorious thing about this inheritance is that this inheritance is not something which is suppose to be merely received, saved for ourselves and horded away in a bank vault somewhere. When the inheritance is given it is to be received and shared, passed around and passed down. We receive the truth and are to in turn pass the truth on. We accept the gospel and in turn are to share the gospel with others, so they too might received OUR inheritance so they too might be apart of the chosen, the destined, apart of the family, the body, the community. So that We, not merely me, are apart of all which is gathered unto God.
And that brings us full circle, back to the circle. We are gathered, are apart of the family, apart of the inheritors so we may be God’s people praising God, living lives praising God. Who are we; we are the people of God, chosen. Who are we? We are the community of God set aside for God’s good pleasure. Who are we? We are the body of Christ pure, blameless and holy. Who are we? We are children, a part of the family who are receivers of the inheritance, who is Christ, sharing the inheritance, spreading the truth, giving to others the gift we have been given. Who are we? We are the Church. Adopted to bless and be blessed; adopted to share our inheritance; adopted to praise and live lives of praise.
Now I begin to think what does it mean to live lives of praise? What does it look like when you and I live out this circle of blessing and praise? As we move through our days, as we go to work, manage the kids, clean our houses, go to the grocery store. The circle of perpetual motion is a beautiful mental picture but as we go out from here at the end of the service what do we do with that image. How are our lives any different when living THIS way as opposed to the myriad of other ways which each of us may choose to live our lives?
It begins with the choice. It begins with our choice to believe; our choice to be apart of the family, our choice to accept the truth of the Gospel. We can not live in this way unless we have accepted the gift of grace. We are not in Christ, we are not adopted, redeemed, gathered in, unless we have first moved toward God in response to the move God makes toward each and every one of us. We first must see ourselves as having accepted Christ, having accepted the truth of the resurrected Savior; see ourselves as in the family, a part of the body, a participant in the chosen community, a member of the Church.
In essence the “rules of the club” only apply to those who are in the club. If we are not IN the community and apart of the family it is simply and utter impossible, to live the holy, blameless life those who are in Christ are called to live. As a side note it is therefore unreasonable and unfair to expect this kind of lifestyle, expect any kind of holiness, or righteous living, to expect a reflection of the likeness of Christ, of anyone outside of the chosen community, anyone who has not yet chosen to be apart of the family, of anyone outside the Church. But within the community, as a part of the body, when we are IN Christ, we are holy and blameless before our God, redeemed, brought into the family, adopted so that we might live lives of praise, of holiness and blessing.
Those of us who have chosen the Community, those of us who have chosen the gift, chosen to accept our adoption and are apart of the family are so focused on the glory of the Father, so thankful for the gift of the inclusion, that we look only to God. Seek only God. Love God first. Love our neighbors habitually. We rejoice in God’s choosing. We celebrate the gift. Our lives are so focused on the glorious, amazing wonderful thing, which has been done for us, that all we are and all we do reflects the Father to whom we are thankful, reflect the Son in whom we believe and reflect the motivations of the Spirit which flows through and lives in us all. And we live lives centered on praise and live lives which reflect the very character of the God whom we praise.
But not only are we living lives of praise but we are living lives which are blessed. Blessed with the glorious inheritance of the gospel, in which we believe. That which we believe, is the blessing which is given to us, and that which is given to us, we must give away. As children we gain this inheritance and we are to share it, we are to pass it on. Our gospel inheritance compels us to move beyond the family, beyond the body, beyond the community, widen the circle, reach out and draw others in. Share the gift we have been given, so that others might also believe, so that others might participate in our adoption, so that others may belong to the Community, be apart of the body. So THEY might be US.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Drinking Deeply From the Psalms: Psalm 150 - Ending with Praise

Psalm 150
The book of Psalms begins by giving us a metaphor for living life right, living life in the goodness of God, and shows us that lives deeply rooted in God, in Holy Scriptures, in the Psalms themselves are like trees planted near a stream. Their roots run deep, and they grow strong. The Psalms begin by encouraging us to be like these trees and tells us that the stream we are planted near is the Psalms themselves the nourishment we get from them will help us grow tall and strong.
We began with that first Psalm and now eight weeks later we end with the final Psalm. Now that we have wandered through a handful of the 150 Psalms found in this book, we have rejoiced with the Psalmist, wept with the Psalmist or perhaps he wept with us. He called for us trust and for us to give thanks, and now in the final Psalm he calls for us to give Praise to God.
The Psalmist in this passage proves to be a good first year journalism student. He answers almost all of the important questions: “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Why?”, and “How?” Although he does not answer them in the traditional order. He begins with, “What?” And the answer to “what?” is in the very first sentence, “Praise the Lord.” That is all he is asking, for us to give praise to God.
He then moves on to answer the question, “Where?” Where are to praise the Lord. The literal answer to that question is, “in his sanctuary,” and “in his firmament.” That seems pretty straight forward, but the Psalms are poetic in nature and do always use straight forward language to portray what it is they are trying to say. The first place we are called to praise God is in his sanctuary, the traditional place of worship here in earth, the second place listed is in the “firmament.” We like to simplistically think of the ancients believing in a three story universe, with the earth in the center, the heavens, the place where God resided above and the place where the dead reside; below. But the people of the ancient near east actually believed in a world that was much more complicated than that. The universe was a sphere with waters that surrounded it all; often referred to as the waters above and the waters, below. The earth was in the center and was the place where humans resided. The place of the dead, the Pit or Sheol was beneath the crust of the earth. Below the waters above, inside the sphere of the universe are the lights of the sky, the Sun, the Moon and the stars. Below that is a dome like thing with holes in it that allows the lights of the sky to shine through. It covers the earth like an upturned bowl, this is called the Firmament, which is sometimes this Hebrew word is translated “the heavens” in English, and was often believed to be the place where the gods resided. The people of God often spoke of God living in the heavens, in the sky dome.
So the Psalmist is calling God to be praised in the firmament, in the place where God resides, and in his sanctuary, here on earth. In other words the Psalmist is calling for God to be praised in heaven and on earth; everywhere. This is another of saying that there is no place where the praise of God should not occur.
But why is God to be praised? What warrants this action? God is to be praised because of “his mighty deeds” and because of “his surpassing greatness.” Praise God for what God has done and because God's greatness is above all others.  God has done amazing things. We know of the things God has done throughout history. We know how God acted on behalf of people of God. God brought the Israelites up out of Egypt; God allowed them to pass through the Red sea, led them through the desert and made a home for them in the promise land. But God has also worked on your behalf, on my behalf. God has done amazing things in the lives of people we know and people we don't know, in events of which we have heard and of which we may never hear. God is at work doing amazing things in this world and for this God is to be praised.
But not only should God be praised for what God has done, but God should be praised for who God is. God is great. God's greatness is all surpassing, it is above and beyond all other greatness that has ever been known, or will ever be known. God is great because God is good, God is holy, all that good is full of righteousness, and rightness, is here on earth because of God. God deserves to be praised because all that is good, all that is right, all that is beautiful, that is holy in this world is a reflection of who God is. God's good and holy finger prints are all over this world, because it is God's creation. We see it all around us. We see it in our everyday lives. We see it in the lives of our loved ones; in the joy of a small child at play and in the keen smile of an aged saint. We see it in the look a loving mother as she nurses her new born babe and in a devoted father as he guides that child through and important milestone.  We see it in the kindness of a stranger holding a door for the person behind them. The fingerprints of God's love, of God's holiness, righteousness, goodness and greatness hems us in on all sides. The greatness of God is the one thing on this earth from which we are unable to run.  God is great and because of that greatness, God deserves to be praised.
Then the Psalmist begins to tell us about how it is we are to praise God. The instruction to praise is succinct. When he tells us where and why, he is poetic, yet short and sweet in his explanation. But when he gets to the “how”, he gets down right loquacious. How are we to praise God? With a trumpet, with a lute and a harp, with tambourine and dance, with strings and pipe, with both clanging symbols and clashing symbols.  We are to praise God with every instrument we of which we can think and in every way we know how, and if we cannot figure out an elegant or melodic way to do it, clash some symbols, clang some symbols, and simply make a loud noise of praise. Praise God in any and every way possible. There is no wrong way to praise, as long as you praise God.
The last question the Psalmist answers is, “Who?” Who is to worship God because of who God is, everywhere, in every way possible? Everything that breathes. That is everyone. Everyone who is alive breathes and if you are breathing, praise God. The call to give God praise does not exclude anyone, anywhere. The invitation extends to all people everywhere.
Wrapped up in the answer of, “Who is to praise God?” is the answer to the final question, “When?” When are we to praise God? The Psalmist says if you are breathing praise God. So when are we to praise God? As long as we have breath, as long as we are breathing, as long as we are alive, praise God. There is no time throughout our whole life we are to not praise God. Praise the Lord, everywhere, at all times, in every way possible because God is great, because God has done mighty things in our lives, in the lives of those we love, in the lives of people all over the earth throughout history. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
The Psalmist ends the book with a call for Praise. He gives us a treatise on praise, telling us who, what, when, why, and how to praise God. Through the Psalms the Psalmist gives words to all aspects of our lives. He gives us words for our times of joy, our times of sorrow, our times of questioning God and our times of trusting God. The Psalms give words to all of life's major events, gives words to all the things we might possible say to God and then he ends the book reminding us that we are too praise God through it all. Praise god through the joy, through the sorrow, through the times of questioning and through the times of trust. No matter what is going on, at all times, in all circumstances, praise the Lord.
The Psalms are a book of praise; they show us how to give praise to God throughout life. It gives examples of what that looks like at all times, in all of life's events. The Psalmist gives us the words, speaks aloud the words that so often lay deep in our hearts, in all the moments of life. They say the things we want to say and often times the things we do not dare to sa
y, but even when they call out in pain, even when they blame God for our grief and our sorrow,  they show us how to praise God at all times. So after showing us, and giving us the words for it all through it all, the book ends by reminding us to give praise, by calling us to praise God at all times, everywhere, in every way possible.