31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 21, 2021
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
My mother, a retired 6th grade English teacher, used to teach a learning unit called “How to”, where each student would present a “how to” project. How to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. How to fold origami flowers. How to make a wooden step stool. My mother still has the step stool so clearly that student did a really good job.
Psalm 100, in addition to being much beloved by so many, is a “how to” presentation. Psalm 100 tells us how to be in relationship with God.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord”; “Worship the Lord with gladness”; Come into God’s presence with singing. Enter God’s house with thanksgiving. (Psalm 100 NRSV) I love the poetry of the New Revised Standard version, and I also love how the modern translation, The Message, says it, “On your feet now – applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter. Sing yourselves into his presence.” (Psalm 100:1-3 The Message)
How are we supposed to be in relationship with God? How are we supposed to enter into God’s presence? How are we supposed to worship? Loudly, enthusiastically, with singing and noise and joy and laughter and praise.
That’s not the message many of us who were nurtured in the mainline Protestant church got. Instead, our version of psalm might be: Make a quiet, respectful sound to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord warmly but not too warmly; come into his presence calmly, stately, with singing – angelic, on key, soft and harmonious singing.
But that’s not what the psalm says. In all of the translations I looked up, the words are either “joyful noise” or “shout for joy”.
And Psalm 100 doesn’t just invite us to be loud, to be boisterous, to be exuberantly glad, Psalm 100 commands us to do so. Make a joyful noise. Worship the Lord with gladness; Come into God’s presence with singing; Give thanks to him and bless him.
To quote a Jennifer Lopez song, when we come into God’s presence, let’s get loud. Not loud like a fire alarm. Loud like fireworks – loud in a way that brings awe and joy. Loud like the uncontrollable laughter of a child. Loud like a standing ovation.
Psalm 100 invites us to come into God’s presence with exuberant, joyful, loud and perhaps even undignified singing, laughing, worship, and praise.
And why should we come into God’s presence that way? Because God made us and we are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture.
In the time when this Psalm was written, kings across the region, from Egypt to Mesopotamia, referred to themselves as shepherds and to their people as their sheep, their flock. Psalm 100 reminds us that we do not belong to any earthly ruler. No mayor, governor, president; Democrat, Republican, or Independent, no earthly ruler is our shepherd. God and God alone is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. It is God who made us; It is God who takes care of us, and God always will.
From generation to generation, from us living now, to those who lived through the pandemic in 1918, to those who settled this area we now call Bristol, to those who were here before English settlers, to those who journeyed on the Mayflower, to those who shared the good news throughout all of Europe, to those who journeyed through the wilderness for 40 years and on and on. From generation to generation, God’s steadfast love endures forever. Forever.
And when you know that in your heart, when you know that with every fiber of your being, that God created you, that God loves you, that God will be with you every step of your journey, guiding you and caring for you. When you know that, how can you respond in any way other than with over the top, exuberant, joyful, singing and praise?! With such over the top, exuberant, joyful, singing and praise that it borders on noise! Joyful noise.
So how are we supposed to be in relationship with God? How are we supposed to enter into God’s presence? How are we supposed to worship?
Make a joyful noise to the Lord. (Claps – Repeat quiet to louder)