Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia
Text: Psalm 100
Day: Thanksgiving, Year C
A funny thing happened on my way to sermonizing today. I got hijacked by the Psalm.
And what a great Psalm to be hijacked by. Did you notice our Psalm today? Psalm 100 is the only one of all the psalms in the Bible that says its purpose is “Jubilate Deo,” to “give thanks to God.”
Well, no wonder Psalm 100 is included in our Thanksgiving Day lections, included our Thanksgiving Day lessons. Perhaps Psalm 100 is the second most well-know of all the psalms, right behind Psalm 23, and the comfort of “The Lord is my shepherd” gives us.
Jubilate Deo! “Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands.”
What’s that you say? Yes I’ve been listening to the news, reading the newspapers, listening to your fears (and/or, rejoicing with you). I called my mentor this week and asked him, “Does what’s happening in the US of A mean I have to register as a Muslim?” Know what he said? “Yes,” that’s what he said, “Yes, but mostly what it means,” he added, “is to be thankful.”
Whaaaaat? Jubilate Deo! “Serve the Lord with gladness.”
Did you know that there are a lot of deaths this season at Church of the Resurrection? Nearby at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, also. I don’t know about Meade Memorial Church, but at Resurrection we can’t, don’t want to, downright hurt at losing ANYBODY, particularly to death. And you want me to be GLAD about this?
Yes, Jo (speaking to myself) as much as grief hurts, do we mean what we say about those who die being in a “better place?” Yes! But I hurt! And yet we come before the Lord’s presence with a song. A song, mind you, even though we hurt! Not just any old song, either, any old dirge, any old begrudging chant! We are the Lord’s, and we need to muster a song of praise, a song of THANKSGIVING. We are in the Lord’s house, with the Lord’s people, giving thanks to the LORD. If we need help with the praise, need help with the attitude, need help with the joy, we should ask the Lord to help.
So let’s do that: Lord, help us give you thanks, even though we are grieving. Because, Jubilate Deo, we know this, that YOU the LORD are God, and we are not. You are the one who made us. And, all things considered, life is by far preferable to death—and not just preferable, Lord, life is (most days) downright stupendously awesome. Thank you, Lord, for life.”
(What? Are you just going to sit there like dry Episcopalians, or will I get an “amen” somewhere here?)
Jubilate Deo, the Lord our creator made us, and this means we are not alive for our own purposes, oh no. We exist for a reason, we exist for God’s reason. So raise your voice and SHOUT FOR JOY:
- I am alive; THANKS BE TO GOD!
- I exist; THANKS BE TO GOD!
- I will thank and praise God as long as I have life and breath,
THANKS BE TO GOD!
Today we are in the Lord’s house. We have come to do the very thing for which we exist: to give praise and honor and worship and glory to God, our creator.
- No more crying here
- No more dying here
- We are in the presence of the Lord, our creator, who understands all things
- And who assures us that all things work together for good for God’s purposes,
- And that OUR JOB is to serve God with gladness—no matter what—and leave the rest (all mere details) up to God.
Yes, yes, I know you want to help God, nudge things in the direction you think things should go. But today is for praising and thanking God. Draw near to God now with song.
Yes, I know music cannot turn a hard heart soft, but maybe the music—God-music—can move you a bit closer to God, or maybe just allow you to let go and let God in just a little closer to you and your grieving heart.
And when we perceive God in this way, Jubilate Deo, we begin to get a glimmer of just how much God loves us—each and every one of us, individually and collectively, saint and sinner alike, FOR THE LORD IS GOOD; HIS MERCY IS EVERLASTING, AND HIS FAITHFULNESS ENDURES FROM AGE TO AGE.