Remembering and PraisePosted: November 6, 2011
Remembering and Praise
Jews seek mindfulness, or God consciousness, by observing three prayer services daily: morning, afternoon, and evening. The faithful are encouraged to pray without ceasing, but these are the three times during the day Jews are encouraged to stop and offer prayer formally corresponding with the three daily sacrifices in the temple. Muslims are commanded to pray five times per day: at day break, Noon, mid-afternoon, evening, and after dark. A Christian tradition of praying the hours consists of eight different prayer times: Matins (at midnight), Lauds (before dawn), Prime (early morning), Terce (mid-morning), Sext (at noon), None (mid-afternoon), Vespers (evening), and Compline (just before bed time). And some of you complain because I suggest setting aside once a day thirty minutes for prayer.
Psalm 150 is included in the Jewish ritual of morning prayer. Every day this prayer is recited in the morning by Jews who keep the daily office of prayer. Psalm 150 in six short verses mentions praise thirteen times. Praise God everywhere. Praise God for the miracle of creation. Praise God with musical instruments. Praise God with dance and movement. Maybe we will ask Nancy Harden, who is visiting with us, to teach us about spiritual awareness through movement. Everything that breathes all humans, all animals, all plants should give praise.
If you look in our hymnal you will find – hymns listed under adoration and praise – from hymn number 1 through 55 and a whole bunch more besides. The doxology is a classic psalm of praise. There is no shortage of praise songs, just time and inclination for us to sing them. At the beginning of Advent we will be meditating on another Praise Psalm number 148, so this morning, because this is Remembrance Sunday I want to talk about praise and remembering, praise and grief.
In the midst of the very real pain, sadness and intensity of emotion in grief sometimes the last thing we want to do is praise. Praise just sounds too celebratory too happy to be appropriate for grief.
It was Elisabeth Kubler Ross who over 50 years ago published On Death and Dying her important study in which she established the five stages of grief. Kubler Ross was very spiritually centered. In fact she began her study, because my faculty adviser at the Chicago Theological Seminary had referred a number of his seminary students, who were interested in studying how to minister to the dying. So the whole study that resulted in identifying the five stages of grief grew out of a spiritual dialogue.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, however, hardly sounds like fertile ground for praise. But we have to remember the stages of grief are just that, stages. They feel real enough in the moment, but denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all transitions as we move through our grief to the peace that comes with acceptance. What is important in order to keep moving through the stages is to move, not to get stuck or wallow in a feeling. Don’t deny the feeling. We need to take time to acknowledge our feelings but then we have to move on. Moving on can take the form of seeking out a counselor, a support group, a friend, maybe even a prayer partner who will listen intently and then pray with and for us.
Great is your faithfulness, O God, Creator,
with you no shadow of turning we see.
You do not change, your compassions they fail not;
all of your goodness forever will be.
Great is your faithfulness! Great is your faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed your hand has provided,
Great is your faithfulness, God unto me!
Praise acknowledging something larger than ourselves, focusing for a few minutes outside of own wants, needs, feelings and saying thank you for life. Thank you for the beauty and goodness of creation. Thank you for food on the table. Thank you for consciousness and movement and love. If we can take a few moments in our day even when we are feeling crumby, even when we are lost in feelings of denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression, praise can help us move through those feelings to a more healthy spiritual place. It’s not that we can skip the stages of grief, rather praise can help us keep moving through our grief to come out the other side in acceptance of life as it is given.
This week I was looking at a praise and worship song by a group called Casting Crowns they wrote after the outbreak of tornados this Spring and Summer:
Praise You in This Storm
I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You
But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
I know many people that criticize praise and worship music for being happy-clappy, and some of it is, but not this one – the God who gives and takes away – I will praise you in this storm. That is the key to keep moving through grief. Not to avoid grief but to keep moving on to eventual acceptance and peace, and maybe a new and more mature relationship with God.
As I think about praise in difficult circumstances I am reminded of the story of an older lady, who was very poor. But she loved God, and she was in the habit in the morning of stepping out on her front porch and praying a loud, often times praying in a loud voice, “Praise the Lord.”
One day when money was really tight, the older lady was praying on her porch and she implored God to help her with some groceries. “Oh, Lord, I need groceries, praise the Lord.”
Now she had a next door neighbor who was a pessimist and an atheist with a mean streak. And it just irritated his shriveled little heart to listen to this lady pray on her front porch. So he decided he was going to play gotcha. He went out and bought several bags of groceries and in the middle of the night he snuck them up on the front porch his neighbor.
The next morning the elderly lady came out on her porch and began to pray, when she noticed the bags of groceries. So she began to shout. “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, he heard my prayer and brought me groceries.”
And at that point her neighbor, who had been waiting on his front porch shouted at her. No God didn’t. I put the groceries on your porch.
At which point the lady began to shout praises to God. “Praise the Lord, he brought me groceries and made the devil pay for them.”
Let me encourage everyone in this congregation to institute a discipline of praise to begin your morning. If you aren’t sure what to do, recite Psalm 150. Begin every day with praise. I have been your pastor long enough I know how many of us resist prayer. “I don’t have time. That’s kind of personal isn’t it? I just don’t remember.” I’ve heard the excuses. And my guess is that our difficulty with prayer and praise has something to do with our sense of self-importance and sophistication. Many folks in this congregation are very bright, but that can sometimes work against us. Do we really want to admit we don’t have time for God? Develop a habit of praise, whether we think we need it or not, and when we suffer grief as inevitably we will, our habit of praise will be there to help carry us through the storm.