Sermon from 9-4-11: “Make Some Noise”

Psalm 149

1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.
5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the Lord!

Make Some Noise!

I believe I may have done a disservice to you last week. We discussed Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, in which God tells Moses to recognize the place in which he is standing is holy. We have had those times in our lives, haven’t we? We feel so close and connected with God that we would like to be allowed to stay there forever. I said, rightly so, that one cannot simply plant themselves in those times in their lives–lest we neglect the mission God calls us to live out in our lives.

However, we cannot miss times to give praise and adoration to God! Now, each faith tradition worships differently–a thing with which there is nothing wrong. This church can worship this way and that church can worship that, and there is nothing anybody can find anywhere which says anything is wrong with that. I’ll watch an sermon by T.D. Jakes and get a wholly other take on what church is like in other places of worship.

If you have ever watched one of T.D. Jakes sermons, you know what I’m talking about. First off, Jakes preaches using the sanctuary as his own personal walking/jogging gym. He is very animated and active when he begins to proclaim the word. It’s not just him, though. Jakes usually has–or encourages–those gathered with him to give verbal feedback to what he is saying or to God for his having given Jakes those words to say. It’s almost as if he is at a family reunion and has to talk over everyone to get his point across. First, there is nothing wrong with that. Second, that sounds like a Tiedeman family reunion.

I have preached under slightly similar circumstances once in my ministry. It was the second time I ever preached, and it was in a small town church. I was filling in for the pastor and I was nervous. I had already preached the sermon before, but I was still nervous. The subject matter was Jesus as the light of the world. I began to preach and soon got into a rhythm. Still nervous, I continued to use my theatre training to passionately portray the subject to the gathered congregation. All of the sudden, I heard an audible “AMEN!” being uttered from the front pew. This threw me, but in a good way. The man–the only black man in an all-white congregation–called that exclamation out without a care in the world. It calmed me even further and gives me a smile to this day.

Contrast those examples with what we experience on a weekly basis. What does the typical service consist of and look like? We gather in the sanctuary and politely hold conversations as we wait for the light of Christ to enter and the pastor to welcome the congregation. As the service picks up, we respectfully take-in the events of the service–only whispering to our neighbor in extreme cases. The only noise we bring ourselves to make is when we sing or come together to read. We don’t even clap. Well, we may clap, but it’s rare and it tends to be what I like to refer to as “the white-guy one beat.” Let me explain (there will be a physical demonstration not available in this blog posting). When we sing a song such as “I Will Enter His Gates,” we will begin to clap in the 1-beat (demo.). There is nothing wrong with this approach to clapping. However, I think it sound a little rigid. But when you begin clapping on the 2-beat, you get a more syncopated sound that sound like music. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter because it’s all praise! Notice, I didn’t mention the offertory–when most people take the time to check the clock and decide where or what it is they are going to eat after the service.

That doesn’t matter, because praise is praise–and it is about time we began to do more of it. You may be saying to yourself, “Self, I feel like I give God praise in the proper fashion and proportion.” I say, there is always time and room for more praise to God. Today’s psalm talks about praise, but in a way that may seem pretty unusual to us today.

The first 5 verses of this psalm are instructions and exhortations to Israel to praise God. The psalmist is describing, in great detail, the lengths the people should go to praise God–and for what reasons. Let’s recount those, shall we: “1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. 2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory. 5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.”

That really sound like a party of praise. Have you ever felt like having a party like that in church? Listen, I attended an Assemblies of God church for a bit when I was a kid; and that sounds a lot like what church was like. It was in the early stages of small town churches attaining the means to make worship more contemporary. Not only was there a band up front that were really giving worship its name, there were tambourines scattered throughout the sanctuary to where it seemed like any average Joe could pick one up and make a joyful noise. And right along with the singing of songs, there were those who were speaking in tongues. I am not going to discuss the merits–or lack thereof–for speaking in tongues, but whatever it was could be construed as heart-felt worship to God.

This is certainly a type of worship the psalmist was talking about. When you get to verse six, there begins to be an explanation as to what the psalmist is asking the people to thank God for. “6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, 8 to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron, 9 to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the Lord!”

We hear such joyous language in the beginning of this passage, then we hear some pretty descriptive language. The psalmist is talking about the people of Israel giving thanks to God for victory in war. Now, we cannot equate our modern conception of war with what the psalmist is talking about, but let’s consider this in a modern context. How would we view someone who brandishes a gun in one hand and says God is great in another? I would try to introduce them to Jesus, but that’s besides the point. We would consider them crazy! How about if an evil man of monumental proportions was finally brought to justice–10 years after his crime–and the people he had harmed danced in the street as a result? If you remain unclear as to what I am referring, that is what happened just a few short months ago when Osama Bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals in his Pakistani hideout.

The psalmist is exhorting Israel to praise God for His providence in time of war. This might seem logical, but let’s consider the scope of this scenario. Israel didn’t just win, they won a war. Israel didn’t just go up to their enemy and strike them down, they did battle with an enemy combatant. Yes, Israel won, but there were loses, as well. Young men died. Mothers and fathers lost sons. Children lost their parents. Families were decimated by a war which left neither side untouched. There were people assigned the task of cleaning up the battlefield. This means a group of people had to grab bloody, lifeless corpses and carry them a long distance to where they were going to be buried. After they cleaned their hands of the dirt and blood, they had to consider whether or not they could eat.

Praise God after that? Who among us would or could feel that way? Would you be disenchanted with me if I told you that we should still do this? Would you consider me a young, inexperienced child if I told you that Christians should give thanks and praise to God even in the times they may feel least like it? Life is pain. Life is tragedy. Life is hard.

Thanks be to God that he is always there with us, to see us through to the other side. At some point around the time Emily and I found out that we couldn’t conceive, her father sent us a a postcard. The front of it said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ***show scanned postcard*** A little blunt, but it certainly gets the point across. Life can be hell, but God is always there–whether or not we realize it.

God will be with us through each and every part of our lives. He is with us in the good times–AMEN! He is just as much, if not more so, with us through the bad times. So, why not praise him for it? Why not praise him in all times for all things? It could be victory in war, but it could just as easily be for victory over some personal struggle. It could be praise for good health after a life-threatening disease. It could be praise for a child who has grown up and gotten past a difficult personal situation. Whatever it is, let’s just praise God! Make some noise, even. Whoop it up! God does deserve it, right? There is the darkness and there is the light. God is there with us through it all, and we should praise Him through it all, as well.

As I close, I just gotta share with you something that made me want to praise God. It happened yesterday. Emily and Ella were walking through Hobby Lobby, as is not uncommon for them to do. Now, Emily and I have know for a while that Ella is smarter than both of us combined, but not to this extent. They saw a pair of nuns walking by and Ella said, “look, mommy, they have Jesus in them.” First, we are not Catholic and I don’t know if she has ever seen a nun before. Second, how is it my daughter recognizes the light of Jesus in others when the rest of us may not even give it a second thought?

How can you not be compelled to praise God after that? How can you not be compelled to shout some praise to him after that? How can you not want to shout “AMEN!” after that? Just to be clear: I am not only giving you permission today to shout out “AMEN!” or any other exclamation of praise to God during the sermon, but each and every day of your life. Thanks and praise be to Him this and every day. And all of God’s people said…AMEN!

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