130217 Psalm 150

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 February 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Psalm 150
Theme: Praise the Lord!

It is a time honored tradition, at least in some circles, for Christians to give up something for Lent, but were you aware that some churches do the same thing? In my previous congregation, as a way to recognize the somber and subdued mood of the Lenten season, we gave up saying or singing "Hallelujah." We sang a "Farewell to Hallelujah" hymn on Transfiguration Sunday, and the word was not repeated in church again until Easter morning.

I talked to Pastor Schmidt and Mrs. Elowski about doing something like that here at St. Matthew's, but we decided that it wouldn't be a good idea, at least not this year For one, it would be extremely difficult not to say or sing, "Hallelujah" on a day like today. And with the sermon text I have chosen avoiding "Hallelujah" would be all but impossible.

In English the Hebrew "Hallelujah" comes out as a three word phrase, a phrase that bookends Psalm 150, a phrase that sets the tone for this special sermon on this special Sunday. For God's gift of music, for the gift of a new instrument to lead us in our worship, we raise our voices together and say...

PRAISE THE LORD!

"Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens" (1). When you came to church this morning, you passed through several sets of doors. Most of you parked your car and proceeded through two sets of wooden doors into the fireside room. Eventually you took a left and walked up the steps and went through another door that brought you to the back of the church. Then you passed through one of three doorways to get to the pew where you are sitting.

As soon as you walked into the building you were technically in the church, but where you are now is a special part of the church. It has even been given a special name. It is called the sanctuary, and roughly translated it means "holy place."

For the Israelites the "holy place" was the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was where God's people came to worship. The temple was the place where the priests offered daily sacrifices. God-fearing Jews considered the temple to be God's dwelling place on earth.

For similar reasons we sometimes refer to church as God's house. This is where we come to worship God. This is where God comes to us in his Word and sacraments. That's what makes this place a holy place. That is what makes this place God's sanctuary.

But you and I and the psalmist all know that God cannot be contained in a box, even a really big box with big stained glass windows. God fills the heavens. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), and God wants his people to do the same. The Lord wants his people to praise him wherever they are, in heaven and on earth and every place in between.

After telling God's people where to praise God, the psalmist continues by addressing another important question: Why? Why should we praise God? "Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness" (2).

Read through the Old Testament and you won't have any trouble finding examples of God's power. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In response to man's wickedness God destroyed the world with a flood. In Egypt God turned the Nile River into blood. In the wilderness God rained down manna and quail from heaven. In Canaan God brought the walls of Jericho crashing to the ground. That's just a handful of examples, and I only got to the beginning of Joshua.

The gods of the Egyptians couldn't do any of those things. The gods of the Canaanites couldn't match that kind of firepower. Neither can Allah. Neither can American ingenuity. Neither can the power of positive thinking. No man-made religion, no human philosophy, no person dead or alive even comes close to the surpassing greatness of the one true God.

And the greatest thing about God is that the greatest thing he ever did didn't appear to be all that great when he did it. Two thousand years ago God the Father sent his one and only Son down to earth. He didn't come down in a blaze of glory. He didn't come with an angelic entourage. He came in humility. He came to serve. He came to die.

When Jesus' body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb, there were no signs of life. There was no sign of victory. But there was power. On Good Friday that power was hidden by the stone that was rolled in front of Jesus' tomb, but it was revealed just a couple days later. On Easter Sunday Jesus demonstrated his power over death. It wasn't a trick. It wasn't an illusion. It was Jesus, and he was alive.

Do you remember how Jesus' disciples reacted when he appeared to them? They bowed down and worshiped him. They praised their living Lord. And because he still lives, because he lives triumphant from the grave, because he lives eternally to save, we want to praise the Lord too.

How do we do that? How do we praise the Lord? That's a good question, and this is Psalm 150's answer: "Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals" (3-5).

These verses don't have much to say about the outward form of worship. The psalmist doesn't argue for or against liturgical worship. The psalmist doesn't make the case that worship should be traditional or contemporary.

Psalm 150 doesn't really get into the substance of worship either. If you want to have a discussion about worship forms, if you want set down biblical principles for worship, you will need to look elsewhere. But if you want to talk about the attitude of the worshiper, if you want to talk about the atmosphere of worship, this psalm belongs at the top of the list.

When a person understands what God has done for him, when he comes to the realization that he was lost and now is found, that he has been rescued from the fires of hell, that he is headed for the glory of heaven, he wants to respond. He wants to thank God. He wants to praise God. That praise can be expressed in many different ways, but today we are reminded that one of the ways God's people praise God is through music.

The first musical instrument mentioned is the trumpet, the ram's horn that was traditionally blown by the priests. Next on the list are the harp and lyre, instruments that were commonly associated with the Levites. The rest of the ensemble, tambourines and strings and cymbals and flutes, were played by the people.

You won't find the organ anywhere on that list (it wouldn't be invented for a few hundred years), but the instrument over there is definitely on our hearts and minds today. It replaces the old organ that served our congregation for more than four decades. There are more manuals. They are more stops. There are more bells and whistles. There is even a Zimbelstern (that was tinkling sound you might have heard when we sang "Now Thank We All Our God").

The instrument that leads our worship for the first time today is new and improved, but its purpose is the same. Today we dedicate this organ to the glory of God. Today we pray that this instrument will assist God's people as we sing God's praises for many years to come.

And I'm not just talking about the members of the church choir or the children in our school. In God's chorus there is a place for everyone. Everyone can praise the Lord. Every one of us was created to praise the Lord. In fact, the psalm concludes with that very thought: "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD" (6).

A few years ago my parents attended a Christmas concert at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The concert concluded with the Hallelujah Chorus, and there was a place in the piece where the congregation was invited to sing along with the Seminary Chorus.

After the concert one of my dad's friends (who is also a pastor) came up to my dad (who claims that he doesn't have a musical bone in his body) and asked him a question. This other pastor asked my dad: "So, did you praise God by joining in the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, or did you praise God by NOT joining in on the Hallelujah Chorus?"

What he said was meant to be a joke, and it was kind of funny. But I have heard the same thought expressed by some other people, and they aren't kidding. They say that they don't know much about music. They don't think that they can sing. They might be intimidated. They might be embarrassed. And so they don't participate.

The devil enjoys that silence. He doesn't want us to praise the Lord. He wants us to forget why we have so many reasons to praise the Lord. Satan doesn't mind if we use God's name, as long as we use God's name in vain. He tempts us to use our voices to curse and swear and lie and deceive. And every time we do, he smiles.

But the devil dreads a singing Christian. Whenever we worship God, whenever we sing God's praises, every time we gather in this sanctuary and celebrate the forgiveness we have in Jesus, the devil is forced to flee with his hands covering his ears because he just can't stand the noise. So don't be intimidated. Don't be embarrassed. Don't be afraid to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

And if you aren't sure where to begin, if you don't know what to sing, the inspired words of Psalm 150 would be a good place to start. For every gift God gives us, for the gift of salvation, for the gift of worship, for the gift of music, and with profound gratitude for the instrument we dedicate to God's glory today, we sing: Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Amen.

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