Original post at http://ksue-modernfaith.blogspot.com/2013/01/sermon-on-praises.html
AND I was able to preach on the 30th after Christmas. Here it is:
I have a question for you this morning…Where do you feel closest to God? Where do imagine that the place is where you might say, without a doubt, surely God is in that place? In your mind imagine the place where you have felt closest to God. If you personally can’t say a place where you have personally experienced God’s presence, that is ok too, but in your mind--if you were to see it--where might God’s presence be? It might be a specific physical place, or an abstract ideal. Maybe where you feel closest to God is around others, or maybe by yourself. Maybe a certain song brings you close to God. We are all different. But think about that place where you have felt God’s presence around you…Do you have it in your mind? In a word, where is it? feel Free to whisper it to your neighbor if you like. I have a feeling that many of us feel closest to God in a place where we are surrounded by some of the things we read about today in our Psalm. How many of us feel closest to God in nature? If you had a place in nature come to mind raise your hand…Being in God’s creation gives us many different feelings doesn’t it? Peace, joy, relaxation, contentment… It might be in the woods in a deer stand, in a boat on the lake, toes in the sand at the beach, or on a mountain-side. If you are friends with me on facebook, you have probably seen the place where I most feel the presence of God. My cover photo has three images of the sky, they are pictures of the sunrise. Each picture was taken 5 minutes apart. What amazes me is the way that the picture changes so much within 15 minutes. I’m standing in the same spot! The sunrise and sunset have always been special to me, I don’t really know why, but something about the sky during sunrise and sunset gives me a glimpse of God’s glory. It’s the closest my human imagination can get to what heaven might look like. That place where I feel God so closely is on a ranch in the hill country of Texas, called Cherokee. There’s NOTHING, I mean NOTHING for miles. The closest Walmart is about an hour away. No major grocery stores, or fast food chains…And there’s little way to find it-not without written directions with landmarks for me to go by, cause I haven’t found a GPS that can locate it! But there are some places around here that GPS can’t find either right?? So that doesn’t say much, but this place that I’m so fond of, I feel God so closely really I think because there are so few distractions. No traffic, no shopping, little cell phone service. Just me and God’s creation…a creek, some trails, and a lot of cactus! That’s my personal favorite, But whatever it is that you had in mind of your place where you feel God’s presence, I would probably bet that it is a little taste of heaven for you. Of course there are other places where we can experience God’s presence near to us. Hopefully during worship, and at the communion table, maybe near a new born baby, or with an elderly saint...but the amazing thing about our scripture reading today from the Psalm is how EVERYTHING praises the Lord. I am learning to really love the book of Psalms the more I read it. The Book is so amazing in the way that it starts out with mostly prayers and pleas for rescue, laments of indescribable sadness, begging for help in times of trouble…you can hear how the author says time and time again, Lord hear my cries, save me from this, and WHY have I been put in this place-please LORD, save us…but the last few chapters are beautiful songs of praise and thanksgiving. Echos of “Praise the Lord” are repeated over and over and over again. From Psalm 146-150 the word praise or praises is used almost 40 times. And in the last psalm, it’s like the grand finale, there is not a sentence that doesn’t include “praise the Lord!” or “praise God.” This tells me a lot about the scriptures, especially this book. First, the book of Psalms has inspired many many songs that we sing in worship! Which is a blessing, because they help us to praise God through sounds and melodies. And these songs have been sung in different ways throughout history…the way the music is experienced changes but the message stays the same whether sung by monks or transposed for an electric guitar…praise is praise no matter the method, God is glorified through it all. Second, it shows me that even as we experience heartache and sorrow, the sun will rise again and give us reason to praise the Lord again. The Lord is faithful to bring light back into our lives even though we might feel totally consumed by darkness and confusion. Third, and this is the main reason for our lesson this morning, is that the whole of creation was made by the One we praise, The One we worship. The sun, the moon, the stars…they have their purpose. The mountains, the clouds, the river that is just a few blocks away from us…the creatures of the land and the sea, the trees and the wind. The air we breathe. They have their purpose. What more of a purpose do we have? All of these worship God’s holy name, just by being what they are created to be. But we, as God’s children, have the ability to put to words and thoughts, songs and novels the things with which God has blessed us. To praise Him. So what were you created to be? What is your purpose? God has a wonderful purpose for each of us. If you haven’t discovered it yet, there is opportunity for you. Now. Grow closer to God in this new year, and He will reveal His purpose for you, if you are aware of your purpose in life, allow the Lord that created you to love you by molding you into more of his likeness! Learn more about Him through sincere relationship and He will help you to learn more about yourself that you might not have yet discovered, or maybe things you haven’t wanted to know, things you have chosen to ignore. Repent, forgive. Receive the waves of grace that will always cover us and heal us if we just let it. As we celebrate the new year in just a couple of days, there is lots of talk of resolutions and promises. When the year changes, we get another chance, a fresh start. Almost like a new beginning to wake up to a new year, 2013, leaving 2012 behind. What if we used this new year to praise God? Become a new person, making different choices, We don’t necessarily need resolutions. What we really need is reconciliation, redemption, and restoration…we can restore our relationships through praise. God promised his children through the covenant of David that his descendent would sit on the throne. We have just experienced the coming of that descendent…Emmanuel God with us, and his name is Jesus the Christ. We can praise because we have been redeemed through God’s everlasting love through the gift of Christ. We can praise God because we have hope in the goodness that still peeks around the corners of the shadows that try to over come us and our family, and our friends. We can praise God because he will overcome the evil in this world to restore us back to what the original plan was for us: perfect relationship, filled with the Lord’s praises. We were created to praise. And that is one thing that will NEVER change. For all eternity. We will worship his holy name, with all heaven and earth, with all creatures, with all of creation. As we end our time together I want to leave you with an Article from my Aunt Pam, she sent me this with our Christmas gifts and I hope you like it as much as I did because it puts an image to what I’m talking about with praise forever with the Lord. This article was on the cover of Newsweek back in October, and the book “Proof of Heaven” was published just a couple of months ago. It’s basically about this doctor/scientist who experienced the after life…he was a skeptic, torn between science and faith. He considered himself a Christian, but more by name than actual belief. He talks about the coma that he experienced after contracting bacterial meningitis, in scientific terms that are far beyond my understanding, he is a neurosurgeon, so he is very much approaching his experience through brain functions and medical terminology…but I want to share a little of his “after life” experience. He says in his book: “Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds… And lastly he describes an encounter with someone or something that is with him on this journey: “Without using any words, she spoke to me. The message was “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever. You have nothing to fear.” Doesn’t that sound like something God would say to us?! Now this may be completely bogus. I don’t know. Only God knows. But when I feel the presence of God around me, when I feel closest to God, I think I know in my heart that the voice of my Creator, my heavenly Father, speaks those same words to my heart. And it’s a message for you too. You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever. You have nothing to fear…we have so much to look forward to! In the coming year I challenge us all to try to see the glimpses of heaven around us, those things that bring us closer to God and each other in community. Most especially as the times of hell on earth try to steal our joy and our hope, may we still find the strength to Praise God! Amen.
Sermon "Praises" by Rev. Karie Sue McCaleb (all rights reserved)