Praise and Justice

Devotional for Sunday, June 21

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

This is a classic praise Psalm. But it has a twist. Notice this is a command, not a suggestion. People of faith have no choice but to praise God. That’s first. Next we are told that to even remember God is to be blessed. And we are to be continually praising God, in every moment of our day–no matter where we find ourselves.   We are also instructed to observe everything God has done and to find praise for that as well. Looking at creation and seeing how beautiful it is and actually taking the time to notice all God has done is also praise. I think that is the most common form of praise in this part of the country. It is also natural that the Psalms are songs. Singing is the number one way I like to give praise to God.

Praise of God is not something that comes easily, or naturally to people. It must be taught; it must be studied and learned. The Psalms are a school of sorts to help us learn how to praise God in this life, and, in a way, training for the life to come. It doesn’t require a fancy building, or a place of quiet (although that can help) or even the right attitude. Just stopping and noticing the beauty around us can lead us into praise.   God is good and has created such a wonderful universe with such astounding creatures and a rich diversity of human beings. It’s amazing. But praise by itself is not enough.

In the last paragraph the whole Psalm changes. God is worthy of praise, but God also acts. In this case God acts powerfully for the poor and forgotten of the earth. God picks them up out of the dirt, and “rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash.” And what does God do with them once they’ve been rescued? God throws them a banquet. This is once again the great reversal. The rich and powerful are ignored, and the poor and oppressed are lifted up and set down to a banquet.

It is hard for me to find quotes for this week. Most people of faith emphasize exclusively the praise part and ignore social justice, or focus only on helping people and seem much weaker on praise. A faithful life requires both. Trying to keep that balance is not easy. Personally when I see all of the poverty and suffering around me it can be difficult to give praise. However, most of that suffering and the system that makes people poor is human-made, not God-made. It is possible to thank God for all of God’s goodness and still be quite angry about the systems that oppress people.

Quotes for the Week
“We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”                      Pope Francis

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”   Dalai Lama

“God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings, not endings.   Just as graduations are not terminations, but commencements. Creation is an ongoing process, and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease.”      Bernie Siegel

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”                       Albert Einstein

“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”   Quentin Crisp

Lesson—Psalm 113 (The Message)
1-3 Hallelujah!
You who serve God, praise God!
Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—
now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk,
keep lifting all your praises to God!

4-9 God is higher than anything and anyone,
outshining everything you can see in the skies.
Who can compare with God, our God,
so majestically enthroned,
Surveying his magnificent
heavens and earth?
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt,
rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests,
a place of honor among the brightest and best.
He gives childless couples a family,
gives them joy as the parents of children.
Hallelujah!

Questions for the Week

Do you have a harder time with praising God, or showing compassion to other people?

How do you praise God in your everyday life?

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