P is for Praise

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 148

I have been fascinated this week by the words of praise offered by the Psalmist above… drawn almost viscerally to the images of everything from sea monsters and topography, weather and celestial bodies singing praises to God.

It got me thinking about praise, ultimately, and its role in Sunday worship.  I know, at least for myself, that the first image that comes to mind when I hear the word praise is praise bands, conglomerations of too-happy pregnant women with one hand in the air as they sing and pimply teenagers rocking out to cheesy love songs for God, all in the name of contemporary and “lively” worship.

But praise has such a richer texture than my, and not doubt many others, gut reaction to the word. The word praise actually comes from the Old French preisier, which means “to value” or to set a price to something. Which I find interesting, since the word worship, from the anglo saxon wurdscip,traditionally indicated reverence given to something that is worthy, or worth its value.  Taken together, then, the words praise and worship seem inseparable:  Worship consists of praise, and praise is the essence of worship, which offers us a strong clue as to what we ought to be engaged in on Sundays.  We ought to be praising God.

Of course, that sounds deceptively simple.  Many of the things we do on Sunday seem obviously praise-y, while others are more difficult to connect to the concept.  Add to that that each person finds meaning in different aspects of worship, and we arrive at a place where people are asking one another:  if it is all meant to lead to praise, then why do we do the boring stuff, or the stuff that I don’t like?

Well here is where I like the Psalm above.  The psalm doesn’t tell us what each part of creation does to offer praise, but it does offer a vision that I think is worth emulating in our worship: the value of both unity and diversity offered in the praise of God.  Certainly mountains and sea monsters could not offer praise in the same way, and I imagine that the heavenly host’s means of praise is completely different from that of the snow and the frost.  Nonetheless, when each offers their true voice to the project of praise,  the harmony is strengthened. In a similar way, our worship offers innumerable ways for each worshipper to find a voice to praise God with.  Whether that person needs to praise God for the act of gathering, or for the grace that comes with sin forgiven, or needs to be reminded by hearing the word, or simply wishes to belt out a hymn by literally singing, each aspect of worship is a path towards praise.  They may not all work for every person every week, but the opportunity is there, waiting, every time we gather.  And what is more, when we gather together we are reminded in song, in spoken word and in prayer that we do not praise God alone, but are joined by our neighbors and the heavenly choir which sing praise eternal.  We can even find comfort in knowing that even the sea monsters sing with us.

Pretty awesome if you ask me.

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Lawdy Lawdy!

Gawrsh it’s been a while…I got myself lost in the Lent-Easter vortex and am only now starting to pull myself out… didn’t help that I also became not a little bit attached to watching television on the web–I am officially caught up on more shows than I care to admit.

But seriously, it has been a pretty busy last few months!  I turned around on tax day and realized that A and I have been married now for 8 months, which just goes to show how time can fly when you keep yourself busy.  Before we know it, we will be edging up on a year….whew!

In other news, spring is in the air, and like many other amateur gardeners I have gotten a bit antsy to play in the dirt.  Up in Belvidere, the farmers started tilling the corn fields about two or three weeks ago, and that for me was a sure sign it was time to begin playing… add to that that nights are almost 10 degrees warmer on average in Philly, and I have been cultivating my own little strip of earth with joy.  As it currently stands, I have my row crops (carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, kale, chard, salad greens) in the dirt, as well as some snow peas and cucumbers.  I was a bit nervous about the cukes but I have plenty of backup if something goes wrong.  I also splurged on some tasty looking strawberry plants, and they are going wild in the back yard in Philly.

Additionally, I have been starting to have fun with my sourdough starter–yes, I became one of those people with a weird jar of goop in my fridge.  A and I are really enjoying the bread we are getting, even though I still feel like a beginner at this.  I still have some slow downs and hold ups (like this Sunday when my sponge didn’t want to rise in time for a children’s sermon based on it!) but there are lots of classic church ladies in Belvidere to tell me what I am doing wrong and help me correct it when I do… ah i love those ladies 🙂

A and I are also considering a foray into cheesemaking and beermaking, so we shall see what the future holds.  I joked with him that my goal is to turn us into alternative “live off the land types,” but really I just want to be able to make the things I like best–aka, cheese, bread, beer, jams and pickled and canned veggies–on my own because it feels awesome to do so.  I really like the idea of putting up food for the winter, or caring for my own starter, or even–although A swears he will allow it–raising my own hens.  Something empowering about knowing how to manipulate seeds and food products.

So that is more or less what is going on with me right now.  I am biding my time with my ground cherry and tomato plants, but the warmer days are on the horizon, and before long I will probably be complaining publicly about all the pests bugging my crops 🙂  but until then, I am at least comforted by the notion that there are tasty things growing outside, and that I might get to eat some of em.

Ding Dong, The Flip is Back!

I was posting sermons for family back home and then–*BAM!*–our apartment got broken into and our video recorder was stolen.

Thanks in no small part to the generosity of my grandparents who visited last week, we are now in possession of a new flip video, which means that Alex has been taping sermons again (or , as a parishioner noted last Sunday, “he’s texting during your sermons again!”)

So without further ado, especially for a dad who has been asking, here is my sermon from 4/18, entitled, “Gone Fishing”, based on John 21 and Acts 9:1-20:

And, also, if you are interested, last Sunday’s (4/25) sermon, entitled “A Good Shepherd,” based on John 10: