I really love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 100 in The Message:
On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence. (verses 1-2)
I used to be a worship pastor in the local church, so the act of inviting the gathered church to sing their praises to God used to be a very normal activity. I haven’t led worship very often as of late, so I confess I occasionally find myself standing there, looking at the stage, and wondering what it’s all about. I’ll admit, it’s more challenging being on the other side.
It’s possible I’m more engaged when I’m the one doing the engaging.
This morning I was leading worship at a church in Loveland, Colorado, and when I shared these opening verses of Psalm 100, to my amazement, the congregation stood to their feet and applauded God.
We were ready to praise God. You could just feel the energy in the room. It wasn’t anything I said, just a sense of anticipation and wonder that filled the atmosphere and united our hearts.
Like I said, I don’t do this very much anymore, but it sure inspires me to be able to bear witness to, and share in, the work of God’s people.
We’re witnesses to the world of the presence and the goodness of God. Look at what verse 3 says:
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
A more traditional version would read something like this:
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (NIV)
I don’t need to remind you what we have all been living through for the past 20+ months. In the midst of all of our trials and hardships, however, it must truly bring God great delight when the church, his bride, sets aside differences of opinion in exchange for a moment of shared celebration. That’s what we experienced today in the house of God.
“The Lord is God.” Just let that truth sink in for a minute.
There is a God. There is a Divine Maker who made us for himself, and it is his pleasure to share heaven with us. All that God has made, all his hands continue to provide, we are able to enjoy, simply by nature of our status: “We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
So why am I bothering to share any of this with you? Because of the next part of Psalm 100. Look at what it says (in The Message):
4 Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
I’m convinced that gratitude, our ability to say “thank you,” is a key ingredient to our formation in these turbulent times. We’re heading like a freight train to the end of 2021, and in the process we will celebrate a few more holidays along the way.
Today was Veteran’s Day. It is no small thing for us to stop and remember the sacrifices of men and women who served in the fight for freedom.
Starbucks is now selling their “Holiday Drinks” in festive red cups. In fact, I already tasted my first Peppermint Mocha of the season, which means Christmas is coming and we will soon be going out of our way to give gifts and spread joy.
But before we get to Christmas, we’ll celebrate another wonderful holiday here in the United States. We will enjoy Thanksgiving Day with our families and friends. Turkey. Stuffing. Mashed Potatoes. Pumpkin Pie. Football. (These are a few of my favorite things.)
My hope for you this Thanksgiving is that you will take some time to truly think about the things in your life that are gifts from God. Rather than focusing on the obvious, though, a good practice might be to think about the things in your life that are not so obvious. How can you be grateful for difficult circumstances? How can you thank God for his presence in the midst of the storm?
The last verse of Psalm 100 says that “God is sheer beauty, all generous in love, loyal always and ever.” Take some time over the next few weeks to thank God for his generous love. Thank God for the ways you have experienced his presence in the valley of the shadow of death.
We’re definitely being formed through the hardships of this life. How could we not?Especially when we think about the challenges we’ve all faced, and are still facing, during these past years. But let’s partner with the Holy Spirit and see how we can be formed into a people of gratitude, applauding God, and thanking him for his unyielding love.
May we be inspired to not only be recipients of God’s great love but to become love-dealers – in hard places – to a broken and hurting people.
What would that look like for you?
May all we say and do be infused with praise and thanksgiving to a God who deeply cares for us. May our worship be expressed in love toward God and others, in Jesus name, Amen.