Psalm 147:1-11, 20c and an Excerpt from A Song of Praise by Brian McLaren
February 4th, 2024
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany10:30 a.m.
By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Good morning again on this fifth Sunday after the Epiphany and can you believe there is just one more Sunday until we begin the season of Lent. Can’t you believe that? What a blessing we have this this moisture that our region needs so much.
Thank you Mother Nature!
It is wonderful that you have come in person or that you are joining online to be a part of this ancient and I am realizing increasingly odd tradition in our culture, of showing up every week for people of all kinds, from all places and perspectives, in the name of something that most of us here at least would best described as a mystery. Thank you for being here and for showing you for yourself, for one another, for Spirit to be Body of Christ in this time. I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, letting ourselves arrive, being able as best as we can to be in the moment, giving thanks for this day and the chance to be here together like this.
And I invite you as you are moved, to join me in this prayer from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
How good it is to sing praises!
That’s what we heard from the Psalmist. Praising for the stars, for the sun, for the moon…
The root of the word is about expressing admiration for what is most valuable to us. As you might already know, HALLELUJAH is the premier word for praise in the Hebrew Bible. It is not translated; it is really more like transliterated.
“Hallel” means to boast or brag on and “Jah” is a shortened form of the name for God. Praise God really or Let me brag on my God in one word.
The earliest use of the word praise in English was about assessing the price of something, deciding it’s value. So, it’s a word that asks us to say out loud what we care about the most in our lives, really and truly, in the deepest sense.
And as I was pondering all of this, over this week, I am realizing that when we make a point of pausing and praising the Universe for what we love, when we journal about it or pray about it, when we tell others our praise and say what it is that we value the most, what is worth the most to us, it gives clarity. The act itself is a gift. Praise is a way to sift through and let the most important parts be made known.
I don’t mean to say that God needs us to gather and bow down, I don’t mean it like that, rather what I mean is that what if collectively we have gotten better at critiquing what is wrong than praising what is right? I was sharing earlier that one of my experiences of Boulder as an educated, high achieving place is that people are much quicker to critique something than to praise something.
I don’t mean the manufactured niceness that has disallowed honesty and appropriate accountability or needed criticism and critical thinking, which seems like a kind of cultural fragility, what I mean is our ability to truly observe what is really good and give our energy to it. What I mean is our capacity to notice and praise what is great or working or strong, our ability to notice what is beautiful, cool or creative instead of just all that is wrong.
Have we lost some of our ability to praise?
Because I hear a lot about what isn’t wanted, what is feared, what is to be worried about, what problems there are, what troubles are here and are already to come, how dire certain situations seem to be, but are we as good at seeing what is working and helping to spread that as we are about noticing what isn’t? Are we as good at celebrating solutions that are serving the people they are meant to? Are we as capable of beginning our connections with one another by noticing what is good and seeing strengths? I was thinking of all of the things I wanted to offer praise for.
Praise for the stars, for the flatirons, for the kids, for their giggles. Praise for quiet mornings with arms wrapped around a warm mug, praise for purring cats, praise for the hoot of owls, praise for the sound of the creek, for warm bread, for long lasting love, praise for friends who care, for people who show up. Praise for music and moonrises and for this moment right now.
I wonder with all that is hard and wrong and how brittle some of us seem to be, what if our tendency to first find problems isn’t really serving us? What if it’s bringing us down? What if what we really need right now is praise for what is good?
Rachel Carson wrote that, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” It’s clear to me that it’s so much easier to tear down than to build. It’s easier to critique than to praise. But what if praise is what we need?
And as we heard from Brian McLaren, perhaps what we need is praise? Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Sun,who brings the light of day;He’s beautiful and radiant, like you!Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon,Through all her sister stars.They’re luminous and wonderful, like you!
I am going to give you a chance now to notice what is good and beautiful in your life. Knowing that each of us arrives from different places and perspectives, seeking different possibilities, I invite you now as you are comfortable and willing, to listen and/or share and reflect together for about 2 minutes on what I have offered.
Is praise a regular part of your life? Is it easier for you to find problems? If so, why or why not? How might praise be added into your life?
Beloved of God, let us not forget, how good it is to sing praises! May it be so. Amen.