Sing Praise - Sam Buehrer - SylvaniaUCC - Dec302018

December 30, 2018


Sermon                                     “Sing Praise”                  December 30, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

Psalm 148

1Praise 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!

Colossians 3:12-17

12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

 

Sermon                                    “Sing Praise”                  December 30, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

There is a wonderful (but not quite true) tale told about Albert Einstein when he was making the rounds of the speaker’s circuit.  One night as his chauffeur was driving him to yet another engagement, Einstein mentioned to his chauffeur (a man who somewhat resembled Einstein in looks & manner) that he was tired of speechmaking.

“I have an idea, boss,” his chauffeur said. “I’ve heard you give this speech so many times. I’ll bet I could give it for you.” Einstein laughed loudly and said, “Why not? Let’s do it!”

When they arrived at the dinner, Einstein donned the chauffeur’s cap and jacket and sat in the back of the room. The chauffeur gave a beautiful rendition of Einstein’s speech and even answered a few questions expertly.

Then a supremely pompous professor asked an extremely esoteric question about anti-matter formation, digressing here and there to let everyone in the audience know that he was nobody’s fool.  Without missing a beat, the chauffeur fixed the professor with a steely stare and said, “Sir, the answer to that question is so simple that I will let my chauffeur, who is sitting in the back, answer it for me.”

For Christmas, my son gave me a book entitled, “Your Place in the Universe,” by Paul Sutter.  In this book, Sutter attempts to explain the many big questions that have been asked about the cosmos over the past number of centuries.  Some of the issues he addresses run the gamut from gravity to photons, to exploring what happened in the moments after the “big bang” to even addressing the question, “Where is the edge of the universe?” 

Like Einstein’s chauffeur, several of the questions he addresses are a bit more then my feeble mind can handle in one sitting.  Reading the book makes me wonder how those who founded the creation museum, a museum located in northern Kentucky that tries to explain creation through the lens of biblical literalism would try to explain away what we now know about the creation of our cosmos.  The more and more that I come to understand about our cosmos, the more and more I become aware of how we all are interconnected and intertwined with all off creation.  Even though we are insignificant compared to the stars, if it were not for the stars we would not be, for we are created out of the dust of stars.  We now know that at our atomic and subatomic levels, we share much with the created order.  Carl Sagan, an astronomer and cosmologist, in the television series’ Cosmos’ stated, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”1

Another interesting concept this book raised for me was where do we stand in the midst of time.  Assuming the “big bang” happened some 13.8 billion years ago, if we spread out 13.8 billion years in the aisle of our sanctuary between the rear doors and the altar, creation would have happened at the rear doors. At about the 2nd pew from the front, our earth would have been created. Somewhere between the first pew and the first step, the first signs of life appeared.  The oldest fossil record would appear about two big steps from the altar.  Dinosaurs would have gone extinct about 1 foot from the altar. And all of human history would be contained in less than a hair’s width against the altar.  Set in this context Psalm 8:3-5 takes on more significance,

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals[a] that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,[b]
    and crowned them with glory and honor.”

 

Although this book addresses many of the big questions related to the creation of physical matter, what it does not begin to address is the spiritual and how the spiritual relates to the physical.  To address that question, I find it helpful to turn to the poets rather than the scientists.  More specifically, I turn to the poet that wrote what we call Psalm 148.  Psalm 148 is a poem that speaks of many elements of creation.  As it does so, rather than looking at how all of these elements of creation are connected at the atomic level, it looks at how we are all connected at the spiritual level.  The poet gives voice to this interconnectedness through the theme of praise, specifically praise of the one that called us all into being. 

Biblical commentator, Paul O. Myhre, suggests that Psalm 148 “is a call to remember who we are and who we will be. It is an incitement to reflect on the moment in which one exists and in the stream of time where one exists…It is an invitation for reflection about existence itself as owed to God. This is not just about individual human existence, but pertains to all of existence as owed to God. That alone is cause for praise. But that isn’t the only reason for this praise. The Psalmist breaks it down to the core -- God creates and preserves that which God has created forever.”2

The Hebrew word for praise that is used by the psalm writer is Hallelu. This word can be translated into English as praise and could be understood as something that is infused with gratitude, honor, and reverence.3   Myhre suggests that perhaps one might be able to say that this praise is something that is embedded in the molecular structure of all things. Now that is an interesting thought.

Myhre in his own poetic way goes on to describe what it means for all of creation to praise God.  He writes, “Anything can be the locus for praise: a drop of wasp venom, a grain of sand, a whirling electron, a quiet moment, a rivulet of water coursing down a 100 year old window pane that is thicker at the bottom than at the top due to the steady pull of gravity, a human hand holding 10,000 grains of sand, a child’s laughter, or an old person’s resolve. The things and the movement of things can be sites of praise for God has made all that moves, all that doesn’t move, all that breathes, all that whirls in solar systems, galaxies, and atoms across spans wider and smaller than the human eye, computer, or imagination can go. There is something greater in the psalmist’s words that cannot be easily touched. It can be spoken about. It can be written about. New songs of praise may be created in response to it. Yet, all are derivative. All are echoes or reverberations with a ubiquitous praise that already resounds in gravitational waves and permeates dark matter. It bounds over soaring peaks and falls with winter snow.”3

Returning to the image of time that I shared comparing the time since creation to the length of the aisle in our sanctuary, consider now the amount of praise that is happening in that last little hair’s width as all of creation is now singing the praise to God. Consider this, although we are small in the scheme of the cosmos, God has considered us worthy enough that God has sent the Christ to come among us to lead us into the future that God has in store for us and for all creation.  That is worthy of praise.

 

1 Commentary, Psalm 148, Paul O. Myhre, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2016. Cosmos, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLPkpBN6bEI

Cosmology (Psalm 148)

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

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