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Monday, November 23, 2015

Today’s Reading |  Psalm 103  

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
   and do not forget all his benefits--
who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works vindication
   and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
   his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
   nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
   nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
   so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
   he remembers that we are dust.

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
   they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
   and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
   on those who fear him,
   and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
   and remember to do his commandments.

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
   and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
   you mighty ones who do his bidding,
   obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
   his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works,
   in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. (NRSV)

We know the impact praise has on us when we receive it, but what good could come from praising God? Isn’t God completely sufficient in himself, lacking nothing and needing nothing? Yes, but we do not praise God for God’s sake, but for our own.

The fall, according to Martin Luther, left us curved inward upon ourselves. It redirected each person’s gaze to him- or herself and away from God and others. This is why changing the gaze of our souls is salvation’s path. We are to look to God to be saved, and praising God is a way of looking to God. It is a divine prescription for an ailing people.

We are a praise-challenged people when it comes to our invisible God. We find it easy to praise and adore athletes, or artists, or any person whose accomplishments we admire, but we need to be reminded of the need to praise God. And so the psalmist offers us reasons why we should.

First and foremost is God’s forgiveness of our sin. This is an expression of God’s great love that the psalmist declares is as high as the heavens are above the earth. I am comforted by the immensity of God’s love. It is a love that anoints our fragile mortality with an eternity that extends from everlasting to everlasting.

In the Gospels we see the Son praising the Father, and in those few words uttered from the heavens, we also see the Father praising the Son. Praise is a heavenly preoccupation, one that we are invited to share in as we walk upon the path to Christ-likeness.

God, you are worthy of praise, but we do not praise you as often as we should. Fill our hearts with your love and inspire us to love you better. Amen.

Written by Tom Payne, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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