Give Praise: August 23, 2020

Good Morning Church,

When I have gone to meetings in the conference office or attended clergy events that the Bishop is also attending something very interesting happens. For those who have seen our Bishop at different events, like when Pastor Rich was ordained, you would know that our Bishop is a kind man with a gentle heart, he is not an overwhelming force. Still, the moment the Bishop walks into a room all attention is drawn to him. He has built strong bonds in our conference and therefore his presence commands the space. People listen and pay attention because we know that he is a good leader for us and will take our churches where we need to go. In other words, we have confidence in his leadership. This is a gift and a skill that most of us would spend a lifetime developing and yet it comes naturally to him.

The same kind of feeling is true of the ancient Jewish community and the presence of God. They have confidence in the Lord and an understanding that God will care for them. The sure presence of God changed lives and moved mountains for the people of Israel. As we continue in our sermon series on Psalms we will be looking at the character of God has the high king. The jewish people have lived through a great many hardships and as we know there is many more to come. They would find solace and peace in the knowledge of the God that they have followed. They understand the place that God occupies in this world and that God is the ruler of all.

In this short excerpt, scholar N.T. Wright describes the expectations regarding the Jewish messiah king:

The coming King would do two main things, according to a variety of texts and as we study a variety of actual would-be royal movements within history. First, he would build or restore the Temple. Second, he would fight the decisive battle against the enemy. David’s first act upon being anointed was to fight Goliath; his last was to plan the Temple. Judas Maccabeus defeated the Syrians and cleansed the Temple. Herod defeated the Parthians and rebuilt the Temple. Bar-Kochba, the last would-be Messiah of the period, aimed to defeat the Romans and rebuild the Temple.…

It is unlikely that the followers of a crucified would-be Messiah would regard such a person as the true Messiah. Jesus did not rebuild the Temple; he had not only not defeated the Romans, he had died at their hands in the manner of failed revolutionary leaders.

Even though the purpose of the ministry has not changed, the way in which God meets the needs has. No longer is Christ walking physically with us; instead we are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are called to be the people that will do the work of caring for each other. By doing so, we praise God and give thanks for all the opportunities we have to love with that unconditional love. When we pray and praise God, we should do so with a focus of how that action can inspire us to be the church in the world today. Too often churches have taken the position that we are supposed to be separate from the world and that only by being separate can we maintain some manufactured purity. That is not what Jesus taught his disciples to do, nor what God has called us to do.

It’s true that we are not to act just like the rest of the world. There are going to be times when our motivations would be counterintuitive to what society would be open to. In doing so, we can effect the greatest change in our world. By responding to the world with a graceful and warm heart we can perform our callings to the best of our ability. The ancient people that this passage was written to understood this as a literal nation state. They believed that by following God they could build a society, the nation of Israel, and rule over the earth with righteousness and truth. The life and ministry of Jesus changes this context though. No longer are we focused on “ruling” the earth in the literal sense by building a kingdom, but rather are building a safe space filled with love, acceptance, generosity, and care.

Christ didn’t come to earth to build a country, or elevate one group of people, but to elevate his message of complete love. The people that Psalm 47 was written to saw this in the literal sense of a nation, but as Christians we see this in the community that we build that will seek justice, love, mercy, and walk humbly with God. Our lives, churches and faith communities are meant to be a statement, or a testament to our love of all Gods creation. We are called to be reconcilers, peacemakers, and praise givers to the love of Jesus Christ.

Christianity has often fallen short of this singular purpose. We have not been the loving and welcoming communities we are meant to be. We have created situations where others have been hurt, felt un-welcomed, and downright rejected by the very community that should embrace and surround them with love. This Psalm speaks about praising the king of all the earth, but in order to do so we must first even know who this king is. For us Jesus is king. We call ourselves Christians because we follow the teachings and instructions of Jesus Christ. When we worship the king of all the earth, we worship Jesus. We worship Jesus by internalizing all that he taught to us and his disciples and by living out these teachings with intentionality.

Brothers and Sisters, remember that Jesus told his disciples all of these things they would do and more. He encouraged them to work to be their best selves. We are intended to be Christs hands and feet. This is done by both of words and our actions. The two must be compatible with one another. When we claim Jesus Christ, this statement comes with some strings attached. It comes with strings because Christianity and being a Christian is not for ourselves. We are Christians for those who have not been loved, cared for, and nurtured in life. By walking this journey with them and supporting them, we are worship God. Let us continue opening our hearts to the will of God. Let us live as those who have the calling to be love in this world and show the world that God is still present through us. By doing so, we honor Christ and praise God. Amen.