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Praise the Lord! | A Sermon on Psalm 113

Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 113

listen to sermon audio: CLICK HERE

I want to begin with a little experiment.

I’m not sure if you all know something. So, I’m going to sing a phrase, and if you know what to do and say next, then I want you to do it. OK? Here we go

Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah…

[point to crowd]

Let’s do this. This side will be the hallelujahs and this side will be the praise ye the Lords.

Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah…

Praise ye the Lord.

Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah…

Praise ye the Lord, Praise ye the Lord

Hallelujah

Praise ye the Lord

Hallelujah

Praise ye the Lord

Hallelujah

Praise ye the Lord.

Woo! Yes. Hallelujah. As my good friend Teddy from Hope Baptist used to say, “We’re gettin’ our praise on up in here!”

Now, some of you might be thinking right now: Yes, that’s the way to praise God. Woo-hoo!

Others of you might be thinking: Oh dear, Pastor Steve just shouted “hallelujah” in church. I thought he became a Lutheran. Oh my, what am I going to tell Ole and Lena?”

Today we continue our series in the Psalms.

We’ve called this series The Heart’s Cry because the Psalms are not a collection of dry documents that simply tell us about God. They are a collection of poems and songs that plunge the depths of human emotion and are meant to be prayers to God.

Each week we will explore a different emotion and how we encounter God with that emotion.

Today, as we look at Psalm 113, we are looking at Praise.

That’s what our opening song was.

Hallelujah is a Hebrew phrase.

It’s actually two words.

  • Hallel means praise, lift up, shout out to.
  • When you put u at the end of it—hallelu—it makes it a command: Praise!
  • Then, jah means the Lord.
  • Hallelu jah! Praise ye the Lord is the King James translation.

I want to talk about emotion of praise this by asking two questions.

First, let’s ask How do we praise God?

Second, Why should we praise God?

 

I want to look at the how by painting a picture for you.

Imagine that we are at a Vikings football game. Now, stretch your imagination further and imagine that it is the conference championship.

Here we have two chairs.

In one chair we have fan A.

Fan A is a neatly dressed man. He has on a purple button down shirt. There is a pocket protector in his chest pocket with a Vikings logo on it. The pocket protector is neatly lined with colorful pens. Perhaps he even has on a gold bow tie.

He carries a team roster, on which he keeps stats throughout the game.

Fan B is in this seat. He is a big, burly man, with a gut hanging out underneath his Vikings jersey. His scruffy face is painted purple. He has on one of those Viking hats with the horns and the yellow braids hanging down on each side.

He shows up late for the game. He walks down the steps to his seat with a beer in each hand and a hot dog tucked under one arm.

“Woo! Vikings! Hey bud, how’s it goin” he cries out as he makes his way to his seat.

Now, let’s fast forward to the end of the game.

The Vikings are down by three points. There is only time for one more play. They are on the fifty yard line, too far for a field goal. The ball is snapped. The quarter back drops back into the pocket and scans for open receivers. He pump fakes one direction. He finds the receiver screaming down the sideline. He throws. The defender swipes for the ball and misses. It falls into the receiver’s hands, he steps into the end zone just as the clock ticks to zero. Touchdown! The Vikings win!

Freeze.

Let’s look back at our two fans.

What does fan B do in that moment? He stands up, and, in one fluid motion, beer flies everywhere, he rips off his shirt to reveal the purple-painted #1 on his chest. Hands pumping in the air, braids flying. Woooooo!

Fan A goes…yes.

 

Here’s my question. Who is the better fan? Who loves the Vikings more?

You see, both of these men are praising the Vikings.

Both of these men are expressing authentic gestures of love, adoration, and praise for their team in response to something amazing that the team has done.

What each fan has in common is his love and adoration for the team, and the team’s worthiness of praise. What is different is each fan’s personality.

I think our personality types are a huge factor in how we express praise to God.

Praise is the authentic outpouring of love and adoration for God. How you do that is determined by who you are.

Now, if you’ve spent any time visiting different types of churches, then you know that each denomination has its own style of worship, and each church within those denominations have their own variation of that style.

At some point in history, those styles of worship were crafted by people just like you and me. Styles of worship did not float down from Heaven in some grand edict. Worship styles bubbled up from the human spirit, and became ritualized over time.

There is no right or wrong way to worship God. Sometimes worship should be exuberant and raucous. Sometimes it should be quiet and contemplative. Sometimes it is playful. Sometimes it is penitent.

The question for you is how do you praise God?

Take a moment and tell your neighbor what your natural style is to praise God.

 

Now we need to turn our attention to the second question: Why should we praise God?

I need a volunteer to help me answer this question. You don’t have to say anything, you just need to be willing to sit up here with me for a little bit and follow some simple instructions.

Who’d like to come up here?

Good, thanks. Now you sit in this chair.

If we look at our Psalm for today, Psalm 113, we’ll see that we should praise God because of

who God is and

what God does.

First, look at how God is described. Go ahead. Pull out your Bible and tell me how God is described. Look in verse 4-6. Shout it out.

Right. God is exalted above all things.

So, I’m going to stand up here on this chair.

God is above all things.

What does that mean?

We have to remember that in the ancient world, when this Psalm was written, everyone believed that the gods were attached to the nations, and hung out in the rivers, in the sky, and on the mountains. Life was all about, “My god can beat up your god.”

The Psalmist reminds us that the one true God is above all that pettiness. God is the creator and giver of life. And God can be trusted.

Now let me ask you this.

When we humans are high and exalted, what do we do with it, usually?

Right.

I, the most exalted one, look down at you, the mere mortals, and I make sure that you remember that I am up here and you are down there.

Then I demand that you praise me.

But, what does God do?

Look at verses 7-9.

Right.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts them to sit with princes.

He gives the barren woman—the lowest disgrace in that culture—a home.

This is what it looks like.

God—the one who is above everything; the only one who is worthy of awe and praise—steps down and levels the playing field.

This was most clearly expressed through Jesus. God became flesh and took on the form of the lowest.

This is what God does.

God takes these chairs and turns them toward each other.

This is the picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. God loves each one of us and calls each one of us to see each other as equals before God.

You can have a seat. Let’s give him/her a hand. Thank you.

Who God is and what God does is pretty awesome.

That is way better than scoring the winning touchdown, don’t you think? So, when you think about who God is and what God does, how do you respond?

That is praise.

Here’s my simple challenge for you this week.

First, take time each day to bring this image back into your mind. The God who is up here, comes down here, to set you free.

Second, as you go through the day, try to find ways that you see the evidence of God at work.

It could be as simple as the bee pollinating the flowers and you become overwhelmed by the complexity of that whole natural process, to something as big and deep as someone fighting for social justice to bring a voice to the oppressed.

Third, tell someone how awesome you think God is, and why.

There’s only one word to end with.

Hallelujah!

Say it with me, Hallelujah!

 

 

 

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