31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
July 17, 2016
Psalm 8, 100, 150
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.” (Psalm 100:1) “Praise [the Lord] with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” (Psalm 150: 3-4)
The Bible clearly says that we should praise God with our voices and musical instruments, and yet, as you already heard me say, there are some churches that still do not allow musical instruments in worship. When our own church introduced a bass viol to accompany hymn singing in 1803, there were church members who protested by stomping up and down the aisles like angry children having a temper tantrum.
We’ve come a long way since then however we are far from being one of those churches where Hallelujahs and Praise the Lord’s ring throughout the air. Now in our defense, neither are we the Protestant denomination nicknamed “the frozen chosen”.
I was telling Kyle the other day that when I first arrived here 7 years ago, our congregation was very quiet in worship. There was not a lot of conversation before worship, as we sat quietly waiting for the prelude. There was no passing of the peace and its accompanying buzz. There were no murmured agreements or slight chuckles during the sermon, even though I was trying really, really hard to get some response. And even though we held hands during the Benediction, there wasn’t much friendly chatter after worship.
When I first arrived, we were a quiet church. There wasn’t a lot of joyful noise going on however the point of this sermon isn’t that we should have more talking, more shouting, more Hallelujah’s, or even a praise band in worship – although we could? Talk to the Diaconate and Kyle if you think we should.
It’s not about the noise though. Churches that have praise bands and sing with loud voices are not better than churches that sing quietly or even churches that do not have any musical instruments in worship at all. It’s not about the noise. It’s about heart felt praise and the joy.
It’s about being joyful in our worship of God- that we enter this Sanctuary with thankful hearts, that we praise God in this sanctuary with joy! Psalm 100 and psalm 150 were definitely psalms used in communal worship as they talk about God’s sanctuary and entering God’s gates and God’s courts. It would have been the equivalent of saying enter God’s doors with thanksgiving and his narthex or foyer with praise. When you come to this holy place, when you gather with God’s the community for worship, come with joy, praise, and thanksgiving in your heart and express it.
As an adult, I learned this children’s hymn, “All God’s creatures have a place in the choir, some sing lower, some sing higher, some sing out loud on the telephone wire, some just clap their hands”.
Some of us sing loud and some of us are more comfortable just clapping. It doesn’t matter how we express our praise and joy in worship. It just matters that we do.
The Hebrew word for Psalms translates to “praise”, and these psalms remind us that our worship of God should be filled with praise. Our worship should be filled with joy and thanksgiving, and so should our personal relationship with God.
That is a challenge sometimes. Some of us have been raised in religious traditions where we were taught that our relationship with God should be serious, that our relationship with God should be filled with shame even, because we are always going to be sinners, always going to fall short of the plans God has for us.
That is true. That is very, very true – so thank goodness for grace. Thank goodness for God’s unconditional love revealed to us through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God loves us so much that God chose to come in human form and be with us.
God loves us so much that God chose to take on all of our sins and be killed.
God loves us so much that God showed us that not even death can separate us from God and God’s love.
That is the good news of our faith, and I hope that every time you hear it, your heart is filled with praise, thanksgiving, and joy. God’s love for us is not some abstract concept. It’s not some theoretical notion. God showed us God’s love. Can I get a “Hallelujah!” a “Thanks be to God!”?
We have every reason to rejoice in the Lord always, as the apostle Paul writes. However, some of us have been given the impression that joy has no place in the life of faith, and some of us have been taught by the burdens of life and the world to not be overly joyful about anything.
The news outlets have moved on however our hearts have not. It is hard to rejoice in the Lord when so many lives have been taken. It is hard to praise God when we know that we are not safe from gun violence in our schools, in our churches, in our homes, in our places of fun and entertainment, in living out our civic right to protest injustice.
It’s hard to rejoice in the Lord and make a joyful noise when we are going through health difficulties, when we have been laid off, when our relationships are broken, when we watch loved ones battle addiction, depression, and mental illness.
Life is hard. Sometimes, joy is hard to find, which is exactly why the psalmists invite us to praise God. They invite us to praise God, and they remind us why we praise God. “Lord our God, the whole world tells the greatness of your name. Your glory reaches beyond the stars. Even the babble of infants declares your strength, your power to halt the enemy and avenger. I see your handiwork in the heavens: the moon and the stars you set in place.” (ICEL, Psalm 8:2-3)
The whole world tells the greatness of God’s name. The whole world reminds us to praise God.
During the summertime, I spend a lot of time at my parents’ lake house. I see hummingbirds and dragonflies, lily pads and even a blue heron. Nature is amazing. God’s creation is marvelous. The flowers, the mountains, the oceans, the lakes and rivers, the blades of grass, the maple trees. When we literally stop to smell the roses, how can we be anything but happy? How can our hearts not make a joyful noise to God?
And then think about yourself – we are very aware of our bodies when something goes wrong, however think about all of the things that go right with your body each and every day. Your breath goes in and out, bringing nourishment to every part. Your brain sends the right electrical signals to your arms, which reach out to embrace a loved one or to your hands to pick up a tasty treat, allowing you to enjoy the bounty of God’s creation with your mouth, your sense of taste, touch, and smell. Wondrous. It’s simply wondrous.
“What is humankind, [O God], that you remember them, the human race that you care for them? You treat [us] like gods, dressing [us] in glory and splendor. You give [us] charge of the earth, laying all at [our] feet.” (ICEL, Psalm 8:5-7)
What are we, that God thinks so highly of us, that God blesses us so? We are God’s beloved children. We are loved.
Meditate on that for a moment. God loves you. God has blest you with so much. God continues to bless you.
Count your blessings, the small ones as well as the big ones, the ones we take for granted but never should. The breath that goes in and out of our lungs. The joyful noises that fill our ears, everything from music to children’s playful shouts. For those who have them, the blessing of ten fingers and ten toes, the blessing of all of our limbs and the ability to sing, dance, shout, and make a joyful noise to God.
Last week, I shared with you Renee Miller’s words that “Spirituality is our ongoing, evolving relationship with…God.” (Miller, pg 3). The psalmists invite us, the psalmists remind us, to make joy, to make praise, to make thanksgiving a regular part of our ongoing relationship with God.
Because whether life is going well or we are struggling, whether we are crawling along or dancing, God is always with us and that is the only reason we need to make a joyful, joyful noise to our Lord.