Monday, August 17, 2015

Going Up?

 Clap your hands, all peoples!
 Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
 a great king over all the earth.

 He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
 He chose our heritage for us,
 the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
 God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.

 The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted.
Psalm 47

Reflection – Today’s psalm is one of unalloyed praise and exaltation of God. It is ecstatic, repetitive (sing praises… sing praises.. sing praises… sing praises…), and triumphant.

The business of ‘God going up’ probably referred in the original context to the ark of the covenant being taken in procession to the temple in Jerusalem; now in our Christian context it refers to the Ascension of Jesus Christ to the throne of heaven, the King of kings triumphing and in his triumph making all things new.

‘Praise’ is something I always want to write about and talk about in general. Those reading this who are my directees are probably rolling their eyes at this point, since they have all heard me go on about it. To praise God is the fundamental attitude of faith, along with obeying His commands and seeking His specific will for one’s life.

But to praise—this is basic, this is essential. And this is a powerful way in which our lives are made beautiful and joyous in Him. We can say ‘I trust God’, and we may even mean it. We can pray prayers like ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ and that is good, too. But all of that can be going on at an intellectual level. Like, we know that God is all good and all knowing and all powerful, and so we know that He is trustworthy and that we should trust Him, and so we’re going to trust Him…

All of that is commendable, but meanwhile at the level of the heart, in the innermost core of the person, there can be all sorts of other things going on. Deep doubts, deep fears, deep misgivings as to whether this God of ours is even real, let alone good and truthful and in command of our situations. And of course there can be very real and very deep hurts and wounds that drive those misgivings.

One of the ways to bring trust from the level of the head to the level of the heart is, in fact, to regularly, routinely, consistently praise God for all things. This brings it to the heart level because it is an exercise of faith. If I actually do believe in the good action of God towards myself, then my normal response is to say ‘Thank you, God! Good job! Praise you!’

For myself, one of the transforming practices in my life was to habituate myself that, whenever I encounter a small obstacle or frustration or setback in my day, or anything I don’t happen to like, I say ‘Praise the Lord!’, either in the silence of my heart or out loud, depending on the context. I can testify that this little practice has worked miracles for me, in terms of gladdening my heart and deepening my trust in God.

Praise Him. Even if your life is beset with sorrows and hardship, praise Him. There is a deep choice in that to live in the bigger reality, to ‘go up’ with God into the heights of heaven even if we are going through hell on earth, and in that going up to open up to the abundance of graces He is in fact giving you right now, but that require a trusting and open heart to receive.

Praise Him, sing praises to Him, sing praises. It is absolutely of the essence in living a life of faith and beauty and love in this world that we do so.

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