Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sermon: Psalm 117 The Soundbite Psalm

Soundbites reign supreme. Not only does that seem like a good soundbite in its own right, it’s a reflection of where things are these days. With 24 hour news channels, instant messaging, an explosion of information, there seems to be less time for a lengthy, well-reasoned argument to be developed. The message has to be short, snappy, and special.

Just last week, the Chancellor George Osborne came under fire for his ‘Britain will be held aloft by the march of the makers.’ Or who could forget Tony Blair on the day the Good Friday Agreement was signed saying “A day like today is not a day for soundbites, really. But I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders. I really do.”

It might almost seem as if Psalm 117 is a soundbite psalm. When you turned it up in your Bible, or when Val read it, you might have thought to yourself, “Is that it?” While it’s the shortest psalm in the Bible, we’re see that it has a big command, and a big reason.

As the psalm opens, the command is there: ‘Praise the LORD” - but notice that the command to praise isn’t just for Israel, isn’t just for the people living in the promised land; it’s for everyone. ‘Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!’ Every person on the planet is called to praise.

Now, when we hear the word praise, we maybe think of singing praise; but there are lots of different ways to praise. We can of course sing, but we can also pray, be silent, obey, love, serve. To praise is to acknowledge and confess that God is God and I am not. To give him what he deserves.

So that’s the big command - to praise the LORD. But you might be thinking to yourself, why would I do that? The rest of the psalm, well, verse 2, gives us the reason for praising the Lord. And it’s all because of who God is - it’s rooted in his character. ‘For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.’

We pour out our praise because of the LORD’s steadfast love and faithfulness towards us. Our praise is a reflection of who God is and how he has revealed himself to us in the Bible through the prophets, and through his Son, the Lord Jesus. We praise because God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us; we praise because the Lord is faithful towards us both now and for ever more.

As we meet for our prayer and praise evening, this is a great reminder of why we can meet together in this way; the confidence we have in coming before the throne of grace; and the proper response to what God has done for us - not just for an hour on a Sunday, but for the rest of our life - to praise because of who God is and what he has done.

Let’s say the Psalm together, and then I’ll pray.

This short reflection was shared at the Prayer and Praise night in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 3rd April 2011.

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