Monday, May 20, 2019

Sermon from Psalm 148-- All of Creation, Praise the Lord!

Yesterday's sermon was from Psalm 148, "All of Creation, Praise the Lord!"

As I got up yesterday morning and came outside for coffee and quiet time, I decided to create my own version of a Psalm 148 psalm prayer:

Here is the entire post: (the psalm prayer portion begins with "Praise the LORD."

"Oh, what a beautiful morning! Today I am preaching Psalm 148. Therefore, Praise the LORD. Praise the Lord, all the skies and your colored clouds. Praise the Lord, you birds who sing and chirp. Praise the Lord, you waterfall (fountain) (though you are man-made and run on power created by man). Praise the Lord, all creatures big and small, all humans one and all. Praise the LORD!"

Below you will find yesterday's sermon in transcript form and in recorded form.  As is typical, they are not identical, but fairly close.

I'll also include a picture of the bulletin cover (up top) and some links to some of the songs we sang during worship.


“All of Creation, Praise the Lord!”
Psalm 148 (CEB)
May 19, 2019 (5th Sunday of Easter/Heritage Sunday)
Flintstone UMC
Psalm 148 (CEB)

1Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from heaven!
    Praise God on the heights!
Praise God, all of you who are his messengers!
    Praise God, all of you who comprise his heavenly forces!
Sun and moon, praise God!
    All of you bright stars, praise God!
You highest heaven, praise God!
    Do the same, you waters that are above the sky!
Let all of these praise the Lord’s name
    because God gave the command and they were created!
God set them in place always and forever.
    God made a law that will not be broken.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all you ocean depths!
Do the same, fire and hail, snow and smoke,
    stormy wind that does what God says!
Do the same, you mountains, every single hill,
    fruit trees, and every single cedar!
10 Do the same, you animals—wild or tame—
    you creatures that creep along and you birds that fly!
11 Do the same, you kings of the earth and every single person,
    you princes and every single ruler on earth!
12 Do the same, you young men—young women too!—
    you who are old together with you who are young!
13 Let all of these praise the Lord’s name
    because only God’s name is high over all.
    Only God’s majesty is over earth and heaven.
14 God raised the strength of his people,
    the praise of all his faithful ones—
        that’s the Israelites,
        the people who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today is the 5th Sunday of Easter and we continue our journey through the Psalms.  Today’s Psalm allows us to think about God’s creation.  The Psalm calls for all of creation to praise the Lord, pointing us to heaven, the heights, the messengers, the heavenly forces, the sun and moon, the bright stars, the waters above the sky, sea monsters, ocean depths, fire, hail, snow, smoke, stormy wind, mountains, hills, fruit trees, every cedar… and the list goes on!

Have you ever sat quietly in creation and just listened?  What have you heard?  Have you heard the wind rustling through the trees?  The birds sing?  If you were near a waterfall or a creek, you heard the sounds of rushing, flowing, or trickling water.  Does creation praise its Creator?  Does creation allow you to praise its Creator, your Creator?

Being in creation allows me to praise the Creator.  It reminds me of how intricate the details of life are and how everything works together, for the good of the kingdom and the glory of God.  I am reminded that we are called to be good stewards of what has been given to us and that creation care is a much needed area of work.  But that’s another sermon for another day.

Today’s sermon calls our attention to “praise the Lord”.  As the psalmist is calling all of creation to praise the Lord, it can become an intentional slowing down and a way of giving thanks and showing gratitude for all things, all people, and for returning thanks and gratitude to God, the Creator.

I stopped in verse 9 with the cedar earlier.  Continuing with verse 10, the mandate is to praise the Lord all the animals, creatures that creep along and birds that fly, kings of the earth and every single person, princes and every single ruler, young men, young women, old with the young, all of these.

The Psalmist does a broad brush stroke, yet includes all of creation in the call to “praise the Lord”. 

Walter Brueggemann writes of this Psalm that it is an “inventory of God’s creation.” (The Message of the Psalms, 165)

How can we take this Psalm and apply it to our daily lives?  What would it look like for us?

Shauna Hannan writes about the Psalm in, that it is “a reminder of the abundant and random nature of reasons to praise the Lord that arise in any given day.”

She goes on, “I wake up. Praise the Lord! I have food to eat. Praise him! I have meaningful work to do! Praise the name of the Lord! I encounter people who know my name and care for me. Praise him! Praise him! I breathe in the crisp, clean air and note the gorgeous magnolia tree attempting to bloom as I walk to work. Praise the Lord from the Earth! There are all these reasons to praise the Lord and I have not even been awake for two hours.”
Maybe, like Shauna, we could look around us each day and give thanks and praise for the things we see and experience.
How might that “attitude of gratitude” change our daily pattern?  
Are we willing to try it?  Let’s stop for a moment now. If you were to praise the Lord right now, what would you praise him for?  Do it.  Out loud. Say your praises out loud. 
How many of you remember Amy Grant and her song, “Sing Your Praise to the Lord?” (from the 1980s)
Sing your praise to the Lord
C'mon everybody
Stand up and sing one more
Give your praise to the Lord
I can never tell you
Just how much good that its
gonna do you just to...

Praise changes things.  Praise changes us.  When we praise the Lord, our perspective changes.
You may not always be able to say your praises out loud, but you could keep a list of your gratitude thoughts—praise you for ____________.
One thing I praise the Lord for and give thanks for is this community of Jesus followers right here.  Look around.  Give thanks for one another.  Have you ever considered saying to the person next to you, “thanks for being here today”?  Let’s try that. “Thanks for being here today.” Without the person next to you, behind you, in front of you, etc., we wouldn’t have a community of worshipers.  We are called to worship in community, not as individuals.  That is something for which we can praise the Lord!  
In addition to being the 5th Sunday of Easter, today is also Heritage Sunday. If you look it up on the UMC websites, the focus this year is on the 150 years of women in ministry in the UMC. But what I want to focus on is the heritage of the little rock church.  There is a strong foundation here at the little rock church for which we can all give thanks and praise the Lord.  [Show the documents I found in the choir room.]  [Talk about the history boxes that were brought to the church, one for Flintstone, the other for St. Elmo.  Talk about connectional churches, etc.]
Psalm 148 can be considered a Psalm of new orientation or reorientation.  It helps us to focus anew. 
Jerry Webber wrote a Psalm Prayer from Psalm 148.  As you listen to the Psalm Prayer, allow yourself to join in the praise of the psalmist.
[read the Psalm Prayer, purple book, pages 82-83]
May all of creation praise the Lord.  “Praise the Lord!”

Call to Worship: 
Mysterious God – still mystifying all humanity with
the glories of outer space and the heavenly realms.
We come to worship our Holy Maker, and to give thanks
for the glories revealed to us by our God and Creator.

Creative Love – God, still loving all creation’s wonders
that we human beings can hear, see, smell and touch.
We come to praise and bless our Holy Maker for the
loving and diverse ways God communicates with us.

Breath of God – still breathing into us the miracle of life
itself, and of being in an intimate relationship with God.
We come together in worship - along with all creation—
to praise and celebrate our Holy Maker - our Creating God. Amen.
© 2013 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year C. Used with permission.

Songs sung in service: 
"Shout to the Lord"

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" UMH 139

"I Love to Tell the Story" UMH 156

"Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" UMH 89

Jerry Webber's Psalm Prayer for Psalm 148, as heard on the recorded sermon, is from Fingerprints on Every Moment (2010), pages 82-83. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Psalm 23-- Peace and Rest in the Shepherd's Care

Yesterday's sermon was another Psalm.  Psalm 23.  Two churches.  Two similar, yet different sermons.  Different examples shared while preaching, some different thoughts shared, yet overall, it was the same message.

You can read the transcript below.  As always, what is typed and written, isn't always what is said.  You can listen to the recorded sermons to hear exactly what was said.

I will include a few links that are referenced in the sermon, one to a podcast and one to some lectio divina Scriptures.

Maybe there is something in the sermon and/or in the Scripture for you as you read this.



“Peace and Rest in the Shepherd’s Care”
Psalm 23 (NKJV)
May 12th, 2019 (4th Sunday of Easter/Mother’s Day)
Flintstone UMC / Simpson UMC

Psalm 23 (NKJV)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today is the 4th Sunday in Easter.  “He is risen.”  (“He is risen, indeed.”)

Easter Sunday wasn’t the end.  It was the beginning.  Have you noticed how the disciples still had questions and doubts, even after Jesus did what he said he was going to do?!?!
We can relate to that, can we not?!

As we continue to live into the Easter season, today we are focusing on the lectionary reading from Psalm 23.  I am preaching the Psalms for the month of May.

Every now and then I teach and preach on the Psalms.  This week I saw a quote by Don Saliers that affirms us spending time in them: “When we study and sing and pray Psalms, we are teaching Christ to one another.”  (Don Saliers, Academy Podcast, Episode 21)

Today’s Psalm reminds us of the shepherd’s care.  I chose to use the NKJV because I imagine most folks are more familiar with the older KJV of this Psalm, as I am and the NKJV is very close to it.

How many have Psalm 23 memorized from childhood?

How many have read it recently in a different version?

Hear the Psalm in a different version:

1-3 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

What lessons do you get from today’s passage?  What captures your attention this morning?

This past week, I was driving down Moses road, headed to Boy Scout road, and out of the corner of my eye I saw sheep.  Lots of them.  I’ve seen horses in that field before, but not sheep.  I got to the “t” in the road and had to make a decision.  Do I continue on my path to work or turn around?  I turned around (safely and legally) and went back.  Though it wasn’t long, they had already made their way up the hill, grazing peacefully as they meandered in the grass.  There were baby ones and older ones.  I watched for a few moments and then headed on into work.

It struck me as great timing to see sheep in a field the week before I was going to speak and teach on the Psalm that mentions them and the “great shepherd”.  Like I said, I don’t recall ever seeing sheep there before. 

I have been around sheep when I was on an archaeological dig in Israel.  They are stinky and dirty, nothing like the fluffy white cotton ball ones we used to make for crafts in VBS.

I observed the sheep in Israel following the well worn path back to their shelter, grazing some along the way.  One day I noticed a shepherd waiting for them at the pen.  Another day I observed a sheep giving birth.  Unless they were out grazing, the sheep stayed close to the shepherd and the pen, their shade. 

In today’s Call to Worship, we said these words in response: “We follow the Shepherd.”  “We trust the Shepherd.”  “We are fed by the Shepherd.”  “We live in the Shepherd’s care.”
Are those responses accurate?  Think for a moment.  Be honest with yourself and with God as you reflect.  Maybe it isn’t EVERY single moment, but your heart’s desire is to follow and to trust the Shepherd.  You want to be fed by the Shepherd.  You are seeking to grow and to go deeper in your relationship and you can say that you live in the Shepherd’s care. 

The Shepherd desires an ongoing and growing relationship with the sheep.  We are the sheep of his pasture.

What happens when we go from saying this Psalm individually, to saying it collectively with a focus on the church body?  [Turn to page 137 in your hymnals.  We are going to add a few words prior to “The Lord is my shepherd”.]

“I, Flintstone United Methodist, the Lord is my shepherd. […]
“I, Simpson United Methodist, the Lord is my shepherd. [….]

Do you experience anything differently when you recite this as a congregation?  Does it change anything for you?  As a body of followers of Christ, what does saying it together AS the body do for you?  That is something for reflection.

Another way to take this text and use if for reflection is to read it in the lectio divina style (‘sacred reading’) so that we concentrate on a word or phrase that sticks with us as we read through the passage several times.  The four phases for lectio divina are: read, respond, reflect, rest.  We have practiced this method in the studies I have led.  I encourage you to try this on your own. (time to practice in sermon??)

We learn from Psalm 23 that God is a good host, providing food, drink, and shelter for guests, just as the shepherd does for the sheep. (Keeping Holy Time, Year C, page 171)

FUMC, you are a good host by providing cold water and shade to cyclists.  What a ministry.  It is one that has been percolating for a while in the dreaming and visioning sessions.  The idea came from another church in connection on Signal Mountain.  The response has been overwhelming.  LOTS of shares and comments.  Over 8,000 views, 33 comments, and 63 shares—and that is just the main post, NOT the shared ones… that have also been shared, viewed, and received comments. (at the time of writing).  Folks are appreciative.  Your hospitality is being noticed.  We still have some work to do, to get the word out to the bike clubs, to build relationships, keep the water cold and flowing, etc. But, wow, what a great start.  Thank you.

SUMC, we have many great gifts to offer the community—we have a spacious fellowship hall, a brand new nursery, a beautiful sanctuary.  In the fall, we host the Ridgeland Football team to a pre-game dinner—one of the best they have, according to them.  We host the Sunday afternoons at Simpson quarterly, inviting community for wonderful music.  We just added in a wonderful edition for Lent with the Stations of the Gospel.  Continue to pray, dream, and vision how God can use this space, this land for God’s glory and the good of the Kingdom.  What opportunities of hospitality might arise?

We recognize that God, as the great shepherd, provides our ultimate sustenance, protection, and security.  (Keeping Holy Time, Year C, page 172) Because of God’s care for each of us, we have peace and rest in the shepherd’s care.  Not just as individuals, but as a community.

As we go forth today, may we hear and follow the true shepherd of our souls who calls our name and desires to offer us peace and rest.

Call to Worship: 

L: Come, walk in green pastures.
P: We follow the Shepherd.
L: Come, lie down in green pastures.
P: We trust the Shepherd.
L: Come, dine at the table of abundance.
P: We are fed by the Shepherd.
L: Come, dwell in God’s house.
P: We live in the Shepherd’s care.

Psalm Prayer (during service)

Night and day, all creation declares your glory,

     Holy God.
Yet you call us into covenant
     And reveal your will for our lives.
Your perfect instruction renews life;
     Your commands can be trusted.
In humility may we serve you, O Lord,
     Our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

~Richard Eslinger, The Upper Room Worshipbook, 88A, 1985.



(A link for lectio divina with 30 Scripture passages to jump-start the practice)

(A link to the Don Saliers podcast mentioned in the sermon)


Friday, May 10, 2019

Holy Love: A Biblical Theology for Human Sexuality

Some books I can read quickly and others I'm still working through. That's partly a matter of how much time I have, how much I am able to digest the material, and what else is going on in life.  I currently have way to many books in progress to admit.  I'm trying to finish one so I can write a review on Amazon, as promised.  It's not a difficult book to read, but I keep putting it down because of life's responsibilities.

I say all this to say that I wasn't sure if I would even get to read Steve Harper's Holy Love: A Biblical Theology for Human Sexuality (2019) when it came this past week.  It came and my husband Riley started looking at it.  The next thing I know is that a couple of hours later, he was finished.  Wow!  Riley and books aren't in love as much as I am.  So, that was huge.  He said the book was good, informative, and spiritual.  Since he was finished, it was my turn.  I didn't finish it as quickly.  It took me a couple of days because I had to put it down more often.  But I was able to finish it.  It has a total of 82 pages, including the notes and further reading.

This is a GREAT book!

First, I admire Steve Harper.  He is a retired elder in the United Methodist Church, a former professor and administrator of Asbury Theological Seminary, and faculty of the 2 Year Academy.  I know this because of his bio.  I also know this because he was one of my faculty on one of the sessions in my 2 Year Academy and I did an Independent Study with him on discernment from that for seminary credit.  I followed his writings on his Oboedire blog off and on after meeting him at the 2 Year Academy.  Though I regret not having kept up more, I have reconnected recently and am reading his works again.

Second, this book is based on the Inductive Bible Study method by Traina, one I came to appreciate during my seminary days.  We just recently used that method in the Holston Georgia Parish to work our way through the Gospel of Luke.  It's a method that puts things in the broader context of the Scriptures, looks for interpretations, observations, correlations, etc.

Next, Holy Love comes from a Wesleyan view.  I appreciate that.  The via media, the middle way, is Wesleyan and something I've been drawn to over the years. Harper is able to articulate a compelling Wesleyan view in this book.

A few more things.

Harper shares his personal story.  Where he was for so many years and how he got to where he is now.  That was important for me to read.  We all have a story.  Sharing our stories is important.  Sometimes we get to sit down face to face at the table.  At other times, we read about them.  I can relate to much of what he said, having taught at an evangelical Christian college for 12 years.  I was a "safe" person that people came to.  I didn't judge.  We had good conversations.  Yet, I still wrestled with what the Bible said.  Yet, I really hadn't read any of it.  I had just heard it said things and therefore, I believed what folks told me.  It took me a long time to do my own studying.  Life has a way of teaching and leading us to grow and change.  Harper shares his personal story of growth and change and that was a gift.

There are resources in the book, some of which I am familiar with, some of which are new to me.  I am grateful for both.  The former encourage me and the latter are now on my "list".

Each chapter has discussion questions.  I found them to be good, engaging questions that can be used individually or as a group.  This book would make a good study book for a small group that already is seeking to know more on this topic or a group willing to dive into the topic.

Harper includes an Epilogue, two Appendices (one for LGBTQ folks and one for non-affirming Christians).  There is also a Further Reading section at the end of the book, before the notes section.

A thread that runs through this book on covenant love is grace.  That's another thing that makes it so appealing to me.  It is grace filled for all.

I haven't asked for permission to share any quotes, but I will share one that I was going to share but haven't yet.  I put the quote on the front of the book cover. "My heart was being strangely warmed...again.  And in Lento of 2014, it burst into flame with respect to a theology of sexuality. [...] Simply put, I entered Lent of 2014 as a "welcoming but not affirming" Christian and emerged from it on Easter Monday as an "all means all" Christian. (7)

And, lastly, I will say that I agree with Steve Harper's statement when he says, "I still believe we would all be better off, and in a better place as the church, if we all rolled up our sleeves and did the much harder work of holy conferencing." (62)  To that, I wrote underneath, "Amen."

There are good resources for holy conferencing and engaging in courageous conversations.  It's a matter of whether we're willing to go there or not.

Thank you, Steve Harper, for taking your porch hermeneutic paper and expanding it into this book.  Thank you for continuing to write, teach, speak, lead, and love.    There are many of us who are grateful.

I hope those of you reading this "review" will check out the book Holy Love.  You can find it on the Abingdon Press link in the previous sentence (by clicking on the book title) or through Cokesbury or Amazon.  I hope you will get the book, read it, and engage others in conversation with it.  If you get the book, read it, and want to dialogue with me, I welcome the conversation.



P.S. Here is a Crackers and Grape Juice podcast with Steve Harper, talking about the book.  Episode 205 from May 3, 2019.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Today's sermon from Psalm 30

I finished the sermon this week on Thursday.  That hasn't happened in a very long time.  Life tends to get busy and I often find myself still writing and tweaking through Saturday.  Not this week. It was amazing.  I had extra time to pull weeds on Saturday. Yes, that is what I did with my time.  I pulled LOTS of weeds out of the stones on our back patio.  Well, until the thunder and lightning.  Then I napped for a while, watched a movie, and then went back out for round two.

But, I digress.

With the sermon all "done", I sat down this morning to go over it once last time.  I had written: "Today's Psalm reminds us to sing our praises to God, and that the Lord changes our mourning into dancing and gives us joy."

Sometimes (more than "sometimes"), the words that are written speak into me just as much as through me.  In blue ink, I wrote: "I need this reminder today.  A dear friend in the Emmaus community passed away Wednesday.  Her service was yesterday.  And then a death of a 37 year old woman who loved Jesus happened yesterday."  What I ended up sharing IN the sermon was more than those thoughts, but it connected.

Today was one of those days where it all seemed to connect.  At least for me.  I experienced the Holy Spirit today.

I hope others did too.

Here is the link to listen to the sermon: FOUMC May 5th: "Kingdom Perspective: Where Is Our Focus?"

I will include the links to the songs we sang, the Call to Worship (it is referenced in the sermon, but not in its entirety), and a photo of the bulletin cover.

Maybe there will be something for you in the songs, the words, the Scripture passage, or something.

Peace on your journey,



“Kingdom Perspective: Where Is Our Focus?”
Psalm 30 (CEB)
May 5th, 2019 (Communion Sunday/Native American Ministries Sunday/3rd Sunday of Easter)
Fort Oglethorpe UMC

Psalm 30 (CEB)

1I exalt you, Lord, because you pulled me up;
    you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me.
Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help,
    and you healed me.
Lord, you brought me up from the grave,
    brought me back to life from among those going down to the pit.
You who are faithful to the Lord,
    sing praises to him;
    give thanks to his holy name!
His anger lasts for only a second,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime.
Weeping may stay all night,
    but by morning, joy!
When I was comfortable, I said,
    “I will never stumble.”
Because it pleased you, Lord,
    you made me a strong mountain.
But then you hid your presence.
    I was terrified.
I cried out to you, Lord.
    I begged my Lord for mercy:
“What is to be gained by my spilled blood,
    by my going down into the pit?
Does dust thank you?
    Does it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Lord, listen and have mercy on me!
    Lord, be my helper!”
11 You changed my mourning into dancing.
    You took off my funeral clothes
        and dressed me up in joy
12     so that my whole being
    might sing praises to you and never stop.
Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today is the 3rd Sunday in Easter.  “He is risen.”  (“He is risen, indeed.”)

Easter Sunday wasn’t the end.  It was the beginning.  Have you noticed how the disciples still had questions and doubts, even after Jesus did what he said he was going to do?!?!

We can relate to that, can we not?!

As we live into the Easter season, today we are focusing on the lectionary reading from Psalm 30.  I decided to go with the Psalms for the month of May.

Today’s Psalm reminds us to sing our praises to God, and that the Lord changes our mourning into dancing and gives us joy. 

Our special music today was “Trading My Sorrows”.  How many of you knew that song or had at least heard it before today?  It is sung by a variety of artists.

The lyrics you heard today:

I'm trading my sorrows
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord
I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord
And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen
I'm pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I'm blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy's gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

As we noted in our Call to Worship, “God hears us in our fear and our sorrow.”  “God leads us in a new way.”  “God surprises us with fresh mercy.”  “God invites us to step into a new dance.”

Do we believe that today?  If so, do we live it?

Verses 1-3 from today’s passage:
 1I exalt you, Lord, because you pulled me up;
    you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me.
Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help,
    and you healed me.
Lord, you brought me up from the grave,
    brought me back to life from among those going down to the pit.

What is the author’s response to the healing and being brought back from the pit?

It is expressed in verse 1—“I exalt you.”  The Psalmist, David, begins with the response and then goes on to share parts of the difficult journey.

Are we able to exalt and praise the Lord in response to our difficult times?  It isn’t easy, is it?  Yet, we can get there.  We can get there because of relationship.  Because we have seen God work in our lives before and we can trust God to continue working in us and through us. 

That’s why we can sing praises and exalt the name of the Lord.

Now, “Trading My Sorrows” may have been fairly new to most of you.

Let me go back to the 1980s with you.  How many remember Amy Grant?  I’m going to alienate some of the younger folks probably, but she is coming to Chattanooga in the fall for a concert.

Does anyone remember her singing, “Sing Your Praise to the Lord”?  Rich Mullins wrote it. I used to get tongue-tied over that song, it went so fast in parts, especially the chorus:

Sing your praise to the Lord
C'mon everybody
Stand up and sing one more
Give your praise to the Lord
I can never tell you
Just how much good that its
gonna do you just to...

Here’s a short clip from 2015—she slowed down a little from the 80s. (1:35)

By singing our praise to the Lord and exalting the Lord, especially through the difficult times of life, helps us keep a kingdom perspective.  Our focus is on God, not on the circumstances, not on our personal wants or desires, but on the kingdom.

Praise changes things.

We may still have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (or the valley of suck, as my colleague Rev. Ken Hagler refers to it and that I’ve preached about in the past), but we know that God IS with us.  And because of that, we are able to keep our focus on God.  More on the valley in next week’s sermon (you can listen to the recording.)

Notice how David ends the Psalm in verses 11-12:

11 You changed my mourning into dancing.
    You took off my funeral clothes
        and dressed me up in joy
12     so that my whole being
    might sing praises to you and never stop.
Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

What sorrows, what shame, what hurts, what……

What is it that holds you back or down?

What do you need to lay down before the Lord so that you can sing your praises to the Lord with your whole being and never stop?

As we come to the table today to remember how much Jesus loves us, may we lay down the things that keep us from being able to freely sing our praises to the Lord. 

May we trade our sorrow and shame for joy.

As we prepare our hearts and minds to come to the table, hear this Psalm Prayer from Psalm 30 by Richard Eslinger from the Upper Room Worshipbook:

Psalm Prayer by Richard Eslinger (#92A) in the Upper Room Worshipbook, 1985.

Loving God, you have always been our help.
We cry to you and you hear us.
You bring healing to your people
     and deliver us from death.
Our grief you have turned to dancing
     and our sorrow to joy.
Our hearts sing to you, gracious God;

     we will praise you for ever. Amen.

Call to Worship:
L: Sing praises to God, all you faithful ones 
P: God hears us in our fear and our sorrow
L: Where there was no way
P: God leads us in a new way
L: Where there was no mercy
P: God surprises us with fresh mercy
L: Where there was weeping
P: God invites us to step into a new dance.

~ Rev. Susan A. Blain, Worship Ways website.

Opening Hymn: "Holy, Holy, Holy" UMH 64


"Lord, I Lift Your Name on High"

"Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)"

Special Music for the day:

Closing Hymn: "It Is Well with My Soul" UMH 377 (v. 1)