Psalm 146 - How Long Do I Have to go to Church?
As PK’s (preacher’s kids), my children were never bashful about praying. Laura and I encouraged John and Kate to pray openly. And, we love that they are not afraid to share their joys and concerns.
When John was five, he was very excited about starting kindergarten. Every Sunday for several months, he would pray the same prayer. He prayed that school would begin… Soon!
John was ready.
The Sunday after kindergarten had begun, after church on the drive home, John asked me, “Dad, how long will I have to school?” I told him that he would have to go to school for at least thirteen years (kindergarten + 12 grades). But I continued and let him know that because he was very smart and worked hard, he would probably go to a university for another 4 years. And, that he might even go to graduate school one day for another 2-6 years depending on the degrees he sought.
“That’s a long time” he said.
I looked in the rear-view mirror and I could see the wheels in John’s head turning. A look of realization crossed his face.
“Dad, how long do I have to go to church?”
Laura and I laughed at the seriousness of the question. I took a moment to compose myself.
“Well, John that depends on what you think church is.” I explained, “If church is singing the eternal praise of God from the depths of our souls, we hope to go to church forever.”
What do you think church is? As you reflect, Psalm 146 might be helpful. This psalm exhorts the people of God to “Praise the Lord!” We are reminded in the now to join in the eternal song of praise by allowing God’s eternal melody of love to flow through us in praise of God’s glory.
Praise is an essential action for those who would follow the Lord. In praise, we learn to trust in God and not princes or mortals. “Their plans perish.” When we praise God, we become open to the one who “keeps faith forever.” In praise, we come to know the nature of the God we claim to love as we learn how God keeps faith forever. When we make time to completely focus on praising God, God’s nature is revealed.
Read the Psalm aloud and listen to the nature of God and our role revealed in the verbs from this beautiful Psalm of praise, 146….
We praise. We trust. We hope.
God blesses. God executes justice. God gives food. God sets the prisoner free. God opens eyes. God lifts up. God loves. God watches over the strangers. God upholds the orphan and the widows. God reigns forever!
As we follow the Lord and struggle to influence culture, praise reminds us that we are not alone. When we make time for praise, we become caught up in an eternal song of the divine. God gives food to the hungry, sets free the captive, and cares for the widow, orphan, and stranger.
Praise conforms our will to God’s will. Through praise, we learn to trust God when our own efforts fail.
And when we encounter a world that seems so vastly different from God’s will and live in a culture which does not seem to value people as God does, in praise, we renew our strength to love those who others would leave out.
We learn not to grow weary in our compassion for those whom God loves. We rely on the strength of God, not our own for the transformation of the world. And, we learn to dare to hope. May the next time you go to church begin with praise.
Rev. Brad Morgan is the Senior Pastor of Williams Memorial United Methodist Church in Texarkana, Texas. If you are ever in the area, Brad and his congregation would love to have you come worship with them.
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