truly is a joyful sound (the sound of children singing), and it is the
lead-in to our scripture this morning, from Psalm 100, a wonderful
'Psalm of Thanksgiving', the superscription above the Psalm says.
Make a joyful noise to
the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with
gladness; come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD is
God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the
sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with
thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all
so we are invited to make a joyful noise to the Lord.
what are those joyful noises? Here's my top 10:
fans at Autzen Stadium celebrating another Duck
How'd you know that one? Of course. . .
sound of the last bell of school.
squeal of children on Christmas morning.
favorite two words on Thanksgiving: "Dinner's
chimes at midnight on Christmas Eve playing Joy to the World.
sound of car doors as relatives arrive for Thanksgiving or
Christmas, or any other occasion.
sound of car doors as relatives depart J.
'frizzle' of freshly caught trout from a mountain stream or lake
on a brisk summer morning, cooking over the campfire.
greeting of a spouse after a long trip away from home.
first cry of your newborn child.
noises. So what is the joyful noise that you would name that would
bring joy to your heart? We have those celebration cards (in the
pews), if something comes to you, I'd invite you to jot that down this
morning, to share that in a participatory way to be involved in the
I read this particular Psalm, I think of weddings, because this is the
Psalm I use typically for a call to worship to begin the wedding.
'Make a joyful noise to the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness'. I
can't tell you how many times I've stood up here, and heard young
couples exchange those marriage vows with tears in their eyes. And
what an incredible experience that is, and such a privilege to be part
were plenty of tears at our wedding, 25 years ago. A few of you
may have heard me tell the story before: my Dad co-officiating at
the ceremony, reciting 1 Corinthians 13 from heart (because he's done so
many weddings as I), and he stops in the middle. And Judy's
pastor, who is the other pastor co-officiating, queues him on the
words. And Dad says (crying): "that's not the
problem" (sobbing L).
a joyful noise to the Lord is the first, actually, of seven imperatives
or commands that are hidden in this Psalm. The others are worship
the Lord with gladness, come into God's presence with
thanksgiving, the fourth and the central one around which the other six
are phrased: know that the Lord is God. Followed by
three more acts of worship: enter God's courts, gates,
temple, sanctuary with thanksgiving, give thanks to God, and bless
number 7, many of you know, is in scripture a symbol of wholeness or
completeness. So once the invitation to praise God is complete, we
are then given the reason for why we praise God. Why?
Because the Lord is good. That is the only reason we need, and it
is sufficient unto itself.
do we really believe it? What evidence do we have for the goodness
of God? Other than the Ducks being 10-1, as if we need any other
evidence than that J.
favorite story of Fred Craddock, a prominent Disciple preacher, is from
a number of years ago, back in the days when you were allowed to smoke
on airlines. Remember those days? Fred, being a non-smoker,
was in the non-smoking section. But as soon as the plane got off
the ground, a gentleman across the aisle from him took out this big,
fat, ugly cigar. Lit it up and began puffing away, filling the
cabin with this stink. And Fred said to him "Excuse me, sir,
I think this is the non-smoking section". The man just
ignored him, continued to puff away. Fred called the attention of
the stewardess and said "Am I in the wrong section?".
She asked what section he sought, and he said non-smoking.
She said 'well, this is non-smoking'. Fred said: "What
about him?" The stewardess turned around and said to the
gentleman: "Excuse me, sir, you'll have to put that out, this
is non-smoking". He continued to puff away. "Sir,
we have plenty of seats available in the smoking section if you'd like
to move". He said "No, I like it where I am".
She turned to Fred and shrugged her shoulders, you know, what am I
supposed to do, throw the guy out of the plane? So she continued
on her way, and came back up the aisle as Fred sat there fuming, smoke
coming out of his own nostrils. And she was carrying a tray of
drinks when the plane hit one of those air pockets. And the
stewardess and the tray of drinks went up in the air and the drinks went
to the left, right on top of the man and the cigar, dousing him with all
of that soda and sticky stuff. And the stewardess fell to the
right, right into Fred's lap! And he said to us (this was at the
general convention of the Disciples, 8,000 people there), he said to
us: "Don't ever tell me there is not a God!".
see, God is good and it's easy to affirm God's goodness when all is well
in the world. But what about when it's not? What about those
2,000+ families of the soldiers who will not be coming home this
thanksgiving, or any other thanksgiving? What about the 70 that
went to that wedding in a hotel in Amman, Jordan, when the terrorists
set off that bomb, killing them? What about all those folks in New
Orleans, especially in the 9th Ward, who lost everything? What
about the 75,000-80,000 carried out to sea by the Tsunami? What
about the half a million people in the mountains of Pakistan who's homes
have been destroyed right on the eve of the harsh winter
about Cynthia, a 17 year-old high school senior here in Eugene? I
heard her story on Wednesday evening at the Caesar Chavez elementary
school. About 250-300 people gathered there in the cafeteria, 90%
of them immigrants. Gathered to hear a report on the
Kennedy-McCain immigration reform bill. Andrea Ortiz (city
councilor), Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene Weekly publisher Anita Johnson
and I were asked to be on the panel to receive testimony of many of
these immigrants. And Cynthia was one of those who shared with us
her story. Beautiful young gal. Very articulate and
bright. Fluent in English. Told about how she came to this
country at the age of four. How she was raised in our community,
has attended our public schools. Told us about her one dream in
life: to make something of herself, to achieve what no one else in
her family had ever achieved or even dreamed of. And that is to
receive a college education, so that she could go on and make something
more of her life.
then she stopped, like my father, tears began to roll down her cheek,
but they weren't tears of joy. And she shared with us her
discovery that she cannot apply for financial assistance in any school
in this country because her parents are not documented immigrants to
didn't ask to come to this country. It's the only home she now
knows. And yet that home has rejected her, has told her that she's
regardless of the rightness or wrongness of a system that treats
children of undocumented parents as undesirables, the point is:
how does one say to Cynthia that God is good when all of her dreams and
her hopes have been shattered?
what about any of us? When we can't find a job. When a loved
one dies unexpectedly. When we are diagnosed with a crippling or
terminal disease. When we learn that a son or a daughter is
involved in drugs. When we can't pay our bills. When life
just doesn't turn out the way we planned. What then? Are we
expected to make a joyful noise when we don't feel any joy in our
lives? Are we just supposed to put on that happy mask and go
through thanksgiving as if everything is wonderful?
you have read the Psalms before, you of course know that not all of them
are as joyful as this (Psalm 100). That many of them share the
pain and the anguish of living. The 22nd Psalm cries out "My
God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Those famous words
uttered by Jesus on the cross. The 83rd Psalm pleads:
"Oh God do not keep silence, do not hold your peace or be
still". The 137th Psalm laments: "By the rivers of
Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion".
As the sage of Ecclesiastes proclaims, there is a time to weep, and a
time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
question is, how do we get from one time to another? How do we get
out of the grief, that lethargy, that self-pity, whatever it is that
keeps us from making a joyful noise again? How do we move through
thanksgiving when we don't feel like giving thanks?
there may not be any simple answer to that difficult question, sometimes
it just takes a lot of time and effort and hard work. But the
Psalmist does have one insight for us. One word of wisdom worth
considering. And it is that key verse at the center of the Psalm,
foreshadowing one of the central affirmations of twelve-steps groups
like Alcoholics Anonymous: that we are dependent upon a higher
power. The Psalmist says simply: 'know that the Lord is God,
that God made us, that we are God's'.
times are tough, to know that you are God's; when in the midst of grief,
to know that you are God's; when alone and afraid, to know that you are
God's; when surrounded by those who would do you harm, to know that you
are God's; when you are worn out and used up, to know that you are
God's; when nothing is going right for you, to still know that you are
and above all else, to know that you are God's and if you are God's,
then also your neighbor is God's. In fact, the Psalm is addressed
to 'all the earth', and concludes with God's faithfulness to all
generations. In other words, all of us matter to God. Every
one matters. Everything that is, matters to God because all is the
creation of God.
I suggested last Sunday, to believe God created us and all that is does
not require that we reject science or theories of evolution, that we
believe less about the world and how it came into being, but rather that
we believe more. That we go beyond the bounds of science
and limits of reason. That we believe there is more to life than
what we know. That there is more beauty than what we see.
That there is more goodness than what we experience. That there is
more joy than what we feel. That there is more possibility than
what we think. That there is more wonder than what we sense.
That there is more harmony than what we hear. That there is more
hope than what we say.
why, after the death of a loved one, we can face tomorrow, because we
know it is not the death of love. That is why after some great
disaster we can pick up and start over because we know that it is not
the end of life. That is why in the midst of chaos and the
brokenness of the world, we can still make a joyful noise. Because
we know that God is not finished with us yet. That is why we can
give thanks, no matter what else happens to us and in the world, because
we still know that we are loved by God.
shout to the Lord for joy, for this day, Amen? [A weak 'amen' from
the congregation J].
Huh? I'm not asking you to become Pentecostal here J.
You don't have to start rolling in the aisles, speaking in tongues, or
doing any of that. Just show a little joy, let others know of your
gratitude that you really believe this. So, people of God:
you know that God loves you, say Amen. AMEN!
you know that Christ is your shepherd, the guide of your life, say
you know that God is good, say Amen. AMEN!
you know that in spite of all the war and the terrorism and the death,
that God desires peace for the whole earth, say Amen. AMEN!
you know that God seeks justice for all people of this world, say
you have heard a newborn baby cry and have felt the wonder of life, say
you have felt the joy of human love and divine forgiveness, say
you can give thanks to God for all of this and more, for all of the joy,
for all of the beauty, for all of the wonder of life, say Amen.
a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth. Serve the Lord with
gladness. Amen? AMEN!
with donations to the Helping Hand ministry on Thanksgiving Sunday.