This is Psalm 150, the last of the Psalms and the last in our series on the Psalms. In the earlier weeks we’ve had Psalms of praise, of lament, and of trust. Last week was a psalm of thanks and this week is a call to praise. It is no accident that the psalmist takes us through all the ups and downs that we’ve been talking about and then ends with a call to praise, a call to respond to what God has done and continues to do for us.
Lutherans have been saying this kind of response thing for 500 years but the idea goes much farther back than that. It is well established in Lutheran theology that we are saved by grace through our faith, not works. We can do no good works to earn our salvation. We can have no worthy action that repairs the relationship with God that we have broken asunder through our sin. In fact, if we try to do a ‘good thing’ to get in good with God, we have made that thing not good. You can buy all the food for serving at Matt Talbot this coming Friday which would be a very good thing but if you did it for the purpose of looking good to God then you’ve made feeding hungry people a bad thing. At least your part in it. God cannot be bought off or bribed.
For the most part we know the things we’re supposed to do to be good people. Love God, love your neighbor, feed hungry people, house homeless people, clothe naked people, visit people in prison, and heal sick people. Don’t take the last piece of chocolate, stay in the right lane, hold the door open for whoever is coming in behind you, don’t block the aisle at the grocery store, and don’t keep turning left when the light is red. We know these things. The fact is that we too often don’t DO these things which is why we need God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus but… we know these things. But even if we were able to keep up with all thing good things we’re supposed to do, we’d still miss out on something. If we kid ourselves about this we only need to consider our calendar and if we’ve shown up late or missed out on something. If we can’t keep a perfect calendar that is written down and in front of us with pop up reminders what would lead us to believe that we can keep up with all the good things we’re ‘supposed’ to do to keep God happy. And so it is that we need God’s grace. We need God’s freely given gift of forgiveness that makes everything right again. It is the gift of forgiveness that comes from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that covers our sin.
With God’s gift of forgiveness assured to us through Christ the only question we have to answer is Now What? What will we do now as a response to God’s gracious gift of forgiveness? I suppose one option would be to do nothing. I suppose some people do exactly that. I’ve heard stories of Lutherans who wouldn’t do anything in case it would be interpreted as one of those ‘good work’ things like we were talking about a few minutes ago. That’s kind of amazing to me. It is extraordinary what people will twist scripture into when they have too much time on their hands. We’re afraid of doing something seen as a good work so we’ll do absolutely nothing. Doing nothing in the name of Christ! This coming up with things the Bible never says is like dealing with a group of 4 year olds. If you don’t keep them somewhat busy most of the time they’ll find all kinds of trouble to get into. So doing nothing is really not an option and justifying it with works righteousness is silly. Nice try.
Let’s try this. What are some ways in different languages that you can say thank you? I can think of Gracias – Spanish. Danke – German, Merci – French, Tak – Swedish, tapadh leat (taff a lat) – Scots Gaelic. What have you got to add to the list? … So then we know there are many ways to say thank you to other people as our response of gratitude for what they’ve done for us. Maybe they didn’t take the last piece of chocolate. Maybe they stayed in the right lane. Maybe they’ve held the door. Maybe they didn’t block the aisle, and maybe, just maybe, the stopped when the light turned red. It’s not complicated, when people do things for us, it is right to say thank you. It may even seem like our duty and our joy. In whatever language is appropriate for the situation we find ourselves in.
It’s no different with God, really. We know we’re on the receiving end of a tremendous gift. A gift that is almost unbelievable in it’s goodness. Which then begs the same question, what are some ways we say thank you to God? Worship certainly comes to mind, doesn’t it? That’s not the only reason we worship but giving God praise and thanksgiving has a familiar ring and is certainly part of why we worship. Being generous with our offerings so we can support the ministries and outreach of Spirit of Hope. Which in turn makes us important to our community. We do lots of fun things like Matt Talbot and Kicks for Kids but it is also the case that your offerings allow us to pay our rent. That’s not nearly as much fun as some other things but our property managers and a bunch of Scout groups that meet here greatly appreciate that we have a building here.
Speaking of Matt Talbot Kitchen and Kicks for Kids, what about saying thank you to God by serving our community? We’ll be out in a little bit/we’re out even as we speak delivering Meals on Wheels. That’s a very cool outreach that I highly recommend if you haven’t tried it. I don’t get to do it very often because our 11 o’clock folks seem to want me here. We’ll be out and about again on Friday as we servie the hungry at Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach. And in just a few short months we’ll see how many shoes we can get into the community through our Kicks for Kids outreach.
Not to mention things we do here like Vacation Bible School and the lockin coming up very soon. Important outreach opportunities and great ways to respond to God.
I could go on and on listing things that Spirit of Hope is up to in our collective response to God’s gift of forgiveness in Christ Jesus but there are some time constraints. I could go on and on with all the other ways we bring Christ’s love to live but I think you get the idea. Give thanks to God for all that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in our lives in all the things we say and do. That is our call to praise.