“Praise the Lord!” Meditation on Christian Worship

Everybody loves to get a compliment! Everybody likes to get some praise once in a while. We all like to hear things like: “good job,” “ ataboy!” “proud of you,” “keep up the good work!” It’s good to be praised like this, it let’s us know that we are on the right track and all of the hard work and time put in is appreciated.

We take this human idea of compliments and praise and apply them to our relationship with God as well, especially when we like what God is doing and how things are working out in our lives. When we praise God, sometimes it’s like we are saying “good job God,” “ataboy God!” “proud of you God,” “keep up the good work God!”

When we think about praising God more often than not we think about Sunday morning service, when we come to church to thank God for all of the blessings he has given to us. But our Bible passage from the book of Hebrews reminds us to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.” That’s more than on Sunday mornings, it is all day, every day, in every circumstance, offer up praise to God.

Sometimes we take this Biblical encouragement to heart by adding “Praise the Lord!” to our everyday vocabulary. They will say things like:

“I got that parking spot, praise the Lord!”

         “I got that raise that I needed, praise the Lord!”

         “I actually got good news from the doctor, praise the Lord!”

         “I paid all of my bills this month, praise the Lord!”

The difficulty happens when life isn’t going so well and things aren’t working out right. Do we say:

“I didn’t get that raise that I needed, praise the Lord!”

         “I didn’t get good news from the doctor, praise the Lord!”

         “I didn’t pay all of my bills this month and I’m falling behind, praise the Lord!”

 That kind of thing sounds phony and insincere. Like we are trying to be perfect, plastic, happy people living in a perfect, plastic happy world. But we know that is not our world, or how we live, or even how God works with us.

So, how do we follow this Biblical encouragement to offer “constant sacrifice of praise” to God and what does that look like? Going back to our Scripture lesson today God’s word tells us more about what praise is all about. 

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His Name.”

In this passage, we have a really good, biblical definition of praise. Praise is the fruit of our lips that acknowledge His, or God’s name. The Bible often uses this illustration of our lips bearing fruit and that fruit is produced in our hearts. Many times it is done in a negative sense talking about our sinful and broken hearts producing sinful and broken things that come out of our mouths. But it also occurs in a positive sense with a heart that God has reached out to in His Word and creates faith in, this heart that God is working in produces good fruit on the person’s lips, that is acknowledging the Name of God. When we acknowledge the name of God we are confessing who God is, how he has revealed himself in His Word and who He is to us.

 So, when we offer a constant sacrifice of praise it is our heart touched by God confessing through our lips who he is.

We offer a constant sacrifice of praise when we confess:

  • God is the Lord and maker of Heaven and Earth and yet He still knows my name.
  • God loves me so much that He sent His one and only son, Jesus Christ to die upon the cross for me so that I wouldn’t have to die eternally.
  • God is my Heavenly Father and He has made me His heavenly child both now and eternally.

Notice that in all of this praise to God we never focused on our own feelings or our own situation that is happening around us. That is because praise to God first and foremost doesn’t have to do with us but with who God is. God is still God no matter where I am or what is happening in my life.

Because praise is about God I can say “Praise the Lord!” when times are good and things are going well because my heart in faith confesses through my lips that God is the source of all good things and blessings in my life.

But I can also say, “Praise the Lord!” when times are rough and I’m hurt or scared or lost, because my heart in faith confesses through my lips that God is my Rock and strength, comfort and hope in every time of trouble. It is like the Psalmist said in the Old Testament “My eyes look up to the hills, from where does my help come from. It comes from the Lord the maker of Heaven and Earth.” (Psalm 121:1)

In any and every circumstance in my life I can offer a constant sacrifice of praise to God because God is still God no matter where I am or what is happening in my life. Praise the Lord!

But before we finish today I want to take a quick look at vs. 16 in our Bible passage“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  This passage reminds us that doing good and caring for the people around us is also part of our praise to God. Just like praise, helping other people is always easier when we are happy and life is going well but when we aren’t doing well and life is hard it becomes a lot harder. You know how trouble and hardship end up being, they get so big and so in your face that many times its hard to see anything else. It’s like not being able to see the forest for the huge tree in front of you. But even when we are going through difficult times God still calls us to look to the needs of our neighbors, family and friends because they also are going through difficult times as well. And this helps us a little bit to get past that thing in our own life and to see where the people around me also need care and love. Those same people that we then try to care for in their time of need are also called by God to care for us in our time of need.  This is done so that no one is left alone and we are all cared for in the family of Christ and together we can say “Praise the Lord!”

 

“Who Am I?” Meditation on Christian Identity

Who am I?

that is a basic fundamental question that every human being has to work through, what is my identity.

As adults, that question may come close to the heart with the other one “what do you want to do when you grow up?” when we wonder have we actually found the answer to that question.

Many times we define ourselves through employment:

–       I am a pastor, a teacher, an engineer, a technician, a consultant, a student, a firefighter, a retiree or unemployed.

We also define ourselves through the roles we fill:

–       I am a father, mother, son and daughter, grandparent, aunt…

And we define ourselves by our physical attributes:

–       tall, skinny, heavy, short, lean, muscular, petite…

Sometimes there are circumstances that try to define us:

–       cancer, illness, trauma, violence, hurt, but they are not who we are

and our beliefs define us as well:

–         moral, Christian, patriot , believer

as well as our family of origin and locale:

–       us citizen, irish, Italian, german, portugese.

But in all of those things there is so much about who we are that changes as we walk through life. Career paths change, needs of children are different as they become adults, we lose and gain weight, events happen that reshape our understanding of ourselves and our place in this world. And when those life changes occur and throughout our lives the change is hard and we wonder sometimes if we knew ourselves at all.

And while so many would agree that flexibility in facing the changes in life is key to making it through is there anything solid for us to stand upon, a sure footing where in the myriad changes and chances of life we can find a place that doesn’t change, a place to call our own, to be ourselves. An identity that I can be sure of not matter what changes around me, in me, on me or by me that will never change?

Believe it or not, this question of identity is the main point of our Gospel lesson today from Matthew where we have the picture of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. As John was baptizing many in the waters of the Jordan river for repentance of their sins and bringing them into the kingdom of God Jesus Christ comes to be baptized as well. For John, this made no sense at all. This was Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, the Savior of the World, if anyone was in the kingdom of God it was Jesus because was the kingdom of God. So why, would Jesus want John to baptize Him? John even says, no Jesus, you’ve got it all wrong, I need to be baptized by you!!! Then Jesus responds with this almost cryptic-feeling answer:

“Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus, at that moment in time was revealing Himself not as God from on high filled with power and might, the very word of God that created the Heavens and the Earth, but as the babe born in the manger, the suffering sacrifice, the sinless one who would bear the sins of the world upon the cross.

His identity as our savior that would lead to the cross and the empty tomb was marked in that baptism, this is who He was and through his works upon the cross we too would be given an identity as well, not one that is defined by the world around us but by God and his love for us. Our identity leads us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. He leads us through the waters of baptism so that we can be given a new name- the name of beloved son and daughter of God with whom He is well pleased because of Jesus. He leads to bear our own crosses for His sake and He leads us to rise with Him through the empty tomb of Easter to the glory of a new life in Heaven. Because this is where Jesus identity as our savior was named so our identity as the ones to be saved start and are promised here in the waters of baptism.

Just as Jesus’ identity never changes, he is from eternity the son of God and the our Savior he brings each Christian into himself so that we too can have an identity that will never change no matter what happens in this life.

When St. Paul writes:

 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

he is telling us that our true identity, the solid footing and a place to call our own is found only in Jesus Christ and his eternal nature and this is all done in our baptisms. By God’s promise and power when we are baptized we are connected to Jesus, made part of His family which is God’s family and we are given a name and identity that never changes or can be taken away.

You are named “a baptized child of God” and called His own. For the sake of Christ, God’s only Son, when we are baptized into Jesus Christ, God calls us his children, and gives to us eternity with Jesus.The wonderful news of this message is that when God calls you His own in your baptism, it is a fixed point in time that never changes or can be taken away from you no matter whatever changes in your life:

You are a baptized child of God no matter if you are a

a pastor, a teacher, an engineer, a technician, a consultant, a retiree, umemployed

or a:

a father, mother, son and daughter, grandparent, aunt…

or if you are:

–       tall, skinny, heavy, short, lean, muscular, petite…

or if

–       cancer, illness, trauma, violence, hurt, and even death happens

In any and all circumstances you are a baptized child of God, it is your identity, your security, your hope and your eternity. And it is the fixed point from which the rest of your life can flow, a life that can be lived not in fear of the changes of the world or in fear of losing our identity and who we are but a life of Joy knowing always who we are and who we belong to and where we are going eternally.

I am a baptized child of God.

%d bloggers like this: