21 Apr Don’t Let the Psalmist Sing Alone…
Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is God’s work,
and God’s righteousness endures forever.
God has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
The works of God’s hands are faithful and just;
all the Lord’s precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
God sent redemption to his people;
the Lord has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is God’s name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
God’s praise endures forever.
Psalm 111:1-4, 7-10
Praise the Lord! The psalmist is absolutely right to call us to worship and praise of God, not just when things are going well, but when they are not. Without a doubt, I think we fall in the “not” category at the moment.
Like most folks, I have experienced a wide range of emotions as the coronavirus has morphed from a terrible disease impacting places far away to a stateside reality to a national and global pandemic. I’ve gone through the stages of grief as concern for loved ones, first responders, and parishioners and friends has grown, as “stay at home” orders have upended our daily routines and our lives, and as errands I used to take for granted—like going to the grocery store—are fraught with anxiety.
The silver lining to the grief process, however, is that it is a process, and if you stay with it, do the work, and move through it, you do eventually come out the other side of it. So, finally, this week I am seeing and feeling light breaking through the clouds. That doesn’t mean everything is immediately solved. I still miss seeing people and worshiping together and eating out and flying to see my family. But, I have reached a deeper place of serenity. God is good. This, too, shall pass. It is well with my soul.
This place of more abiding peace is the place from which I am better able to reflect, discern and appreciate the lessons and graces of this unusual experience. First, the pandemic has served as a gigantic invitation to receive each day as it comes, without the burden of my expectations and plans for it. Letting go, realizing we’re not in control, staying present to the moment—there are different ways to express the practice of receiving life as the precious gift it is rather than viewing it as a commodity which is ours to do with as we please.
Second, I have a renewed appreciation for community and how important the practices of ritual and story are. Our identity, purpose, and meaning are tethered to the particular people, places, and events that comprise our lives. We are who we are because of others—parents and siblings, teachers and coaches, mentors and neighbors, pastors and caregivers. And equally important, we also shape others as we do our work, take care of our families, and share our passions and gifts with the world.
Finally, I hope we’ve all been reminded of how blessed we are and how the practice of gratitude is essential to our well-being. Perhaps one of the unexpected graces of this pandemic is that people who tend to be invisible to us suddenly are not: the growers, suppliers, drivers, and grocery workers who ensure that our food supply is safe and store shelves are stocked; the men and women who work in nursing facilities, giving care to the most vulnerable in our society; those who clean office buildings or bus tables or do food prep at restaurants—usually without health care even with a job, let alone without one; the educators who teach our children and mold the next generation of leaders. With so much disruption to our lives has come the opportunity to reflect more deeply about the myriad ways we depend on the work and sacrifices of others—and to express our gratitude to God and to one another.
So, let’s not let the psalmist sing alone. Let’s praise the Lord with grateful and joyful hearts, for “great are the works of the Lord and full of honor and majesty…God’s praise endures forever!”
Yours for the Kingdom,