By Beverly Lapp, professor of music
Scripture: Psalm 148 (NRSV)
The psalms are meaningful to many because they are so real, allowing the reader to feel and express fear, doubt, anger and grief. In the midst of a hurting world, many of the psalms are also stubbornly full of praise, as is Psalm 148. A notable aspect of the psalm is its inclusive nature. All humans, young and old, are asked to join birds, animals and creatures of the sea in praise. The stars, suns and moons of the universe are invited, along with powerful weather systems and glorious mountains. There is a specific call for rulers to be part of this festival of praise.
Elements of nature — waters, fire, snow, fruit trees and cedars — are also not left out. When in a woods or on a hiking trail, with urban trappings set aside for a time, I feel connected with God’s nature in a way that startles me. “Oh yes!” I think. “This magnificent beauty is here.” Gratitude and praise overcome my senses, with the rustling of trees joining my song.
As I write, I am in Chicago, surrounded by some of the tallest buildings in the world. If the psalmist wrote today, I imagine this phrase in the mix: “You city buildings and sturdy bridges, you busy cars and buses, praise the Lord!” One of the tall buildings outside my window bears the name of the next U.S. president, in enormous letters, as it overlooks the flowing Chicago river. Of all the people, creatures and objects of the world being called to praise, it is the most powerful who bear the greatest responsibility. We await the birth of the king who came to challenge the powerful and advocate for the vulnerable. May our rulers and leaders have many moments of being startled by God’s creation, and may these moments lead them to value and protect all people, all creatures and all of nature within our glorious universe.
Scripture: Psalm 148 (NRSV)
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
2Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
3Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
4Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
5Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
6He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
7Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
8fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
9Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
10Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
11Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12Young men and women alike, old and young together!
13Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
14He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!