Sunday, August 23, 2009

Praise is Something We Join

I was invited to write one week of devotionals for the 2011 edition of the "Upper Room Disciplines." The devotionals are based on the lectionary scriptures for a week in October. Here is one.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 – Read Psalm 99

Reading psalms differs from reading other scripture. We step onto the ongoing prayer path of generations, hopping onto a bandwagon of continual worship that went on long before us and will keep going long after we are gone. Singing and praying psalms takes us beyond surface feelings and our verbal comfort levels into a whole new world.

If we are honest, we might note that Psalm 99 is one that we are prone to skim or skip over. It envisions God enthroned on high. The earth shakes and the nations tremble. An awesomeness accompanies the name of God. It’s not that we don’t believe this; it’s just that we’ve heard it before. And some part of us would rather think of God as warm, fuzzy, and friendly.

But the more I pause to pray the psalm, the more it sensitizes my heart to the holy. It is curious that this week’s readings remind us of God’s presence hovering over a tent and appearing in brief glimpses. This psalm recalls that God spoke to Moses and Aaron in a pillar of cloud. An anonymous fourtheenth-century writer of Christian mysticism described God's presence as the "cloud of unknowing."

The psalmist moves our spirits from the smaller picture of our needs, our hopes, and our wants to the larger picture of God’s mysterious presence. We don’t praise God because we feel like praising but because God is God.

Perhaps praise is not something we do at all; it is something we join. The psalms have a mysterious way of unlocking the secrets of true gratitude by ushering us into the ongoing praise of all creation.

Take time to read and reread this psalm. Let the words sink in. Chant or sing it if you can, letting it become the song of your heart. Let God expand your perspective beyond the blessings and challenges in front of you to a sense of the holy.