Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Praying Twice

This sermon was in our series on the Psalms, on the Sunday when we emphasized music as a form of prayer and worship.

Praying Twice
Psalm 150
July 7, 2013
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Psalm 150 CEB
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise God in his fortress, the sky! 
2 Praise God in his mighty acts!
Praise God as suits his incredible greatness! 
3 Praise God with the blast of the ram's horn!
Praise God with lute and lyre! 
4 Praise God with drum and dance! Praise God with strings and pipe! 
5 Praise God with loud cymbals! Praise God with clashing cymbals! 
6 Let every living thing praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
I just got home last night from a kind of mini-vacation. I drove up to beautiful Cresco, Iowa,
and met Bob at the luxurious Super 8 motel. The first day there, we rode our bikes on the Trout Run Trail. It was a day of just-right weather, sunny but not too hot, a pleasant breeze blowing. The new trail is about ten miles, through tall grass, wildflowers, farms and woods, through Decorah and past the river, along the playing fields and the parks. We rode along easily, in no hurry, enjoying the scenery and being together. I felt like singing! Actually, I did sing – to the cows alongside the trail. They didn’t seem impressed, just continued to sit and stare as I passed by. It was all worth singing about, or shouting hallelujah! No matter what the cows thought.

Hallelujah, you may already know, is a Hebrew word.
Two words, actually: hallal – praise (actually, in English, y’all praise!)
and Yah – God – the I AM, the breath – Yah!
Hallelujah, the Psalm says!

Hallelujah!  in his sanctuary!
Hallelujah!  in his fortress, the sky
Hallelujah!  in his mighty acts!
Hallelujah!   as suits his incredible greatness! 
It only makes sense to join the Psalmist in song!

Response:     I Will Enter His Gates

A great many of our hymns and songs, like the Psalms, are inspired by natural wonders, and God’s supernatural powers.
“When I behold the heavens in their vastness,
Where golden ships in azure issue forth,
Where sun and moon keep watch upon the fastness
Of changing seasons and of time on earth.”
These lines are the first English translation of the Swedish hymn we now know as “How Great Thou Art.” Look through your hymnal sometime, and you will see many more like it.

On Thursday, Bob and I kayaked the Upper Iowa River. The sun shone through the trees and dappled the water. There were stretches where hundreds of swallows had built their nests on the side of the bluffs, and they swooped around our heads, dipping down from side to side across the water. We saw a young eagle perched in a treetop. I thought of all the amazing and wonderful things God has done, for me, for you, for all of us! The great God who created us all continues to work upon the earth, with beauty, and with healing, with mercy and with power.

Hallelujah in his mighty acts!
Hallelujah as suits his incredible greatness! 
Hallelujah with the blast of the ram's horn!
Hallelujah with lute and lyre! 
There seems to be no better response than to sing: Our God is an awesome God.

Response:                 Awesome God

On Friday night, Bob and I took a late-night bike ride. We had noticed there were a lot of fireflies as we drove home at dusk the night before. So we took our bikes out to the Prairie Farmer Trail and rode a few miles in the dark, watching the fireflies flicker and flash across the tops of the fields. There were fireworks off in the distance, and thousands of stars in the sky, and it seemed for a moment like they were all connected, the fireflies, the fireworks, the stars, all sparkling fragments of a larger light.

It’s not that I’m so pious, but it did make me think of that verse from John’s gospel:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. It was like a prayer. 
There’s a famous line, attributed to St. Augustine, “To sing is to pray twice.” But at least one scholar says that is a mistranslation. He said that what Augustine really said is this:

“For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyously;
he who sings praise, is not only singing,
but also loving Him whom he is singing for.
There is a praise-filled public proclamation – or preaching!
in the praise of someone who is acknowledging  God, in the song of the lover there is deep love.”(1)

So to sing is to pray, to pray is to praise, to praise is to proclaim, and in the song, there is deep love.

Hallelujah  with drum and dance!
Hallelujah  with strings and pipe! 
Hallelujah  with loud cymbals!
Hallelujah with clashing cymbals! 

As we sing together, let these words be your prayer, let this song be your praise, and let your singing be your proclamation, to lift the name of God on high.

Let every living thing praise the LORD!  Hallelujah!

Response III             Lord I Lift Your Name on High

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