1 Praise the LORD, all you his servants! Praise his name with glad accord, 2 You who serve God in his temple, in the dwelling of the LORD.
3 Praise the LORD, for this is fitting. He is good; his praise proclaim. Praise the LORD, for it is pleasant to sing praises to his name.
4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob to belong to him alone, Israèl to be his treasure, set apart to be his own.
5 For I know the LORD is mighty; greater than all gods is he. 6 He is sovereign in the heavens, on the earth and in the sea.
7 He makes thunder-clouds to gather from the earth’s remotest shores; With the rain he sends forth lightning, brings the wind out from his stores.
8 He struck down all Egypt’s firstborn; man and beast alike were slain. 9 Mighty signs he showed in Egypt, routing Pharaoh and his men.
10 Many nations he defeated; kings he slew with mighty hand— 11 Og of Bashan and king Sihon, all the kings of Canaan’s land.
12 All their lands he gave to Jacob, to his people Israèl; As a heritage he gave them lands where they might safely dwell.
13 LORD, your name endures for ever; your renown is ever great. 14 For the LORD sustains his servants and his folk will vindicate.
15 But the idols of the nations, made of silver and of gold, Are by human hands created with a hammer or a mould.
16 Mouths they have, but speak they cannot; eyes they have, but cannot see. 17 Ears they have, but hear they cannot; in their mouths no breath can be.
18 Those who make them will be like them; those who trust them are the same. 19 Praise the LORD, O house of Israel, Aaron’s house, exalt his name.
20 Praise the LORD, O house of Levi; you who fear him, praise the LORD! 21 Praise the LORD who dwells in Zion
You can hear this sung, from v15, by a Free Church of Scotland congregation to the tune Stuttgart here.
I wonder how many of our churches would recite this Psalm in its entirety? For brevity of time and for wanting to get straight to the point, we might be tempted to select only a few verses. Actually 135 and 136 belong together, and is known as the “Great Hallel”. These words are a regular feature of Jewish worship and holiday observances as well as Orthodox vigils. It’s one big praise that would disturb our one hour time limit for worship.
I find it interesting that the longest poetry in the ancient worship tradition are the songs of praise and the songs of lament. Worship takes time and involves memory and energy.
It takes time to remind ourselves we didn’t arrive here by ourselves. When was the last time we were able to reflect jubilantly about the truth of our collective history?
It takes time to recognise our interconnectedness to all of nature. God “makes thunder-clouds to gather from the earth’s remotest shores; With the rain he sends forth lightning, brings the wind out from his stores.”
It takes time and space and energy to call out idolatry in every age for what it is: “Those who make them will be like them; those who trust them are the same.”
Today in Scotland is Racial Justice Sunday, during what is also Black History Month in the USA. As with the UK’s counterpart commemoration people are tempted to think it is an observance only for people of colour. To recognise blackness for a moment, if at all. However, whenever it falls on our calendar, racial justice and the historical presence of black people are of crucial importance to our churches and our nations as we seek direction in the kind of human beings God is compelling us to become.
Martin Luther King challenged us to be maladjusted to injustice. “the SALVATION of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted!” It remains as urgent and necessary to hear today as we call out the forms of idolatry of our time.
As we meet you in the busyness of our lives, let us take our time. The busyness isn’t going anywhere. You are ever living, ever moving, ever changing our minds. As we worship, let us welcome the space, the pause. Beyond self, beyond anxiety and hate. May the pause extract Love and Grace from us, to the world. Amen.
The Rev’d William Young, Minister, Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial Clydebank
Sing Psalms! The Worship and Psalmody Committee of the Free Church of Scotland
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