Psalm 150 – The second Sunday of Easter – for April 3, 2016
“Praise God with drum and dance! Praise God with strings and pipe!” (Psalm 150:4)
In the blurry past, my brown hair cropped short and wearing a skinny tie and nervous smile, a Sunday school teacher told me the secret to finding the book in the Bible with the most chapters. It was also, if I recall correctly, the secret to locating the New Testament’s opening words. Instead of dividing the pages on the left, divide those on the right in half and—ta-da—Matthew would literally be close at hand.
Or you could endlessly thumb through the Bible’s devilishly thin pages, trial-and-erroring for whatever prophet, parable, or miracle was the intended goal.
I wonder if this was a Protestant-only secret, since the Roman Catholics and their Apocryphal section (Hooray for Tobit, the Maccabees times three, and more) could spoil the divide-the-Bible trick.
I heard the voices of my sweet-natured Sunday school teachers when reading Psalm 150 this week. It’s the Psalm for the Sunday after this year’s Easter. It’s easy to find, whether a reader marches through the pages or chooses an absurdly accurate digital search. Psalm 150 is the last chapter.
It’s also easy to summarize.
Praise the Lord!!!!!!!
Repeat that for six verses.
God is good.
The Holy is marvelous.
Creation rejoices about the Creator.
And so the Psalms concludes with an anthem of alleluias.
During Lent I used snippets of the Psalms for inspiration. Not surprisingly, they included references to frailty and doubt. The Psalms never hold back from revealing human emotions. The Psalms wail against God and welcome God and worry about God’s absence. Randomly choose five or six Psalms and a reader will find verses to calm faith or turn your stomach. It’s unnerving to stumble on Psalm 137:9, where bashing the heads of your enemy’s babies against a rock is the cruel highlight.
Within the 150 chapters, we’re embraced as the most glorious of all creation . . . and revealed (or reviled) as buffoons, boasters, and beggars. And yet, thousands of years after the Psalms were written, they continue to be studied and celebrated.
Who hasn’t struggled in a relationship with another person? Who hasn’t felt God’s abandonment? Who hasn’t wished the worst for your enemy, and sometimes the ones you once loved the most? Who hasn’t wandered from faith and into temptation? Who hasn’t been hypocritical or just plain critical?
The Psalms expose the very soul of creation, revealing the morbid and murky, the magnificent and mysterious.
However, in the last one, that 150th chapter, it’s not fancy. It’s not riddled with ambiguity or angst.
Just praise God.
Which is a good song to sing after Easter, when the risen Christ turned to the disciples and proclaimed . . . now it’s up to you! (Or, metaphorically speaking in John 21, to “feed my lambs . . .”)
For us moderns, sharing Psalm 150 comes after the bunnies have hopped away and all the chocolate candy has melted in the mouth. The colorful spring blossoms gathered to adorn a wildflower cross have faded. The folks filling the pews didn’t put “church” on their calendars for next Sunday. We wish ‘em well, and hope to meet again next Christmas.
It’s back to business as usual.
And then we read the last Psalms: short, sweet-natured, and praising God.
The sky shimmers a glorious hue of blue. Have you stopped to delight in it today?
Birds soar from somewhere south of hither and all the way to yon, symbolizing God’s spirit and literal hollow-boned, fine-feathered reminders of freedom.
The wet earth trembles with new growth. Oh some may grumble about the weeds to battle and the grass to tame, but look . . . LOOK! Creation delights with abundance. Green here. Green there. Trees burst with blossoms. Redolent roses seduce the senses. Snow melts, rivers flow, bees buzz, butterflies abound. It’s as if Easter has opened wide floodgates brimming with glory.
Read Psalm 150.
Yes, we will continue to be haunted by death and decay, by lying politicians with a pocketful of trump cards and greedy bureaucrats scheming to fleece rather than feed the lambs. God can seem more distant than eternal, and our days may feel endless and dreary.
But open your eyes, the last Psalm beckoned, to witness the brazen beauty of the Creator’s creation. Open your mouth, the last Psalm beckoned, and choose compassion over condemnation, praise over pettiness.
The Psalmist, from long, long, long ago, knew what today could be like. If the Psalms were honest from the start about the creation’s weakness, the final anthem is honest about the Creator’s longings . . .
(Final photo of Young Lakes in Yosemite from here.)