Today's Lectionary Text
Psalm 146 (New Revised Standard Updated Edition)Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Every Saturday on my church Facebook page and on my personal “professional page” (Pastor Daniel Norwood) I share a reflection on a Psalm. I share a devotion the other days of the week, but the Psalm reflections always begin, “Happy Psalm Saturday.” Psalms are not always joyful, but they are always happily a model and an invitation to prayer.
Today, as we move toward Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of joy, we have a fitting Psalm of praise and blessing. What is joy if it does not bring us to sing praises? I love the way the Psalmist invites us not just in the abstract to praise God; but lays out a theology of who God is that God should be praised. God is not just the God of Israel, but the creator of us all, who exhibits steadfast faith and love, and who executes justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, sets the prisoners free, gives sight, lifts up, watches over, upholds and, yes, brings the ways of the wicked to ruin. Praise the Lord!
Many churches will read the Magnificat this Sunday, Mary’s song of praise which echoes this Psalm. We remember too Jesus' words when he read from the scroll in the synagogue, saying this prophecy has been fulfilled at his reading. But we don’t always equate joy with justice. Our greatest gladness is when we are lifted up, not when the poor and downtrodden are. I think we equate joy with an emotional happiness instead of blessing. Here is the difference to me; happiness is something I have, it is my emotion, it is my feeling. Joy is, like blessing, something I share. I receive and I pass on joy, just as we may receive and pass on blessings. We are not called to be simply consumers of joy or of blessings, but conduits, and following Mary, magnifiers of joy and blessing. It is not easy. We like our blessings, and perhaps feel a bit guilty about our own complicity in systems of oppression, and hunger and poverty.
I love the song, “Good King Wenceslas,” which is a good song to sing on Dec. 26, the feast of St. Stephen, when the story takes place. The adventure of bringing a feast to the poor peasant ends with the good news that “you who will now bless the poor, will yourself find blessing.” Praise the Lord, O My Soul for the God that invites us into an economy of grace.
-- Rev. Daniel Norwood
Hiawatha First UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Dear Lord, keep us ever mindful of the joys and blessings that come our way. Amen.
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