Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Psalm 113
1 Praise the LORD.
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.

2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,

6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?

7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.

9 He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD.

Continuing with our sermon series on the Psalms, this morning’s Psalm [113] is known as one of the Hallel Psalms. The Hebrew word Hallel is familiar to us in the word Hallelujah. Hallel means ‘praise’, and Yah is the shortened form of Yahweh, the name of God. So Psalm 113 is a hymn of praise about God. It’s a call to the people of God to remember who God is and what God has done.

All day, every day, and everywhere – as the psalmist says, ‘from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets’, ‘both now and forevermore ...the name of the Lord is to be praised’. Praise shouldn’t be something we only do when we feel like it – praise is supposed to be something that we do at all times – in ordinary and extraordinary times – in good times and in bad times. The method of praise comes down to individual preference, but whatever way we do it, God’s people are called to praise God.

The call to praise God is followed in the psalm by reasons for praise: God’s glory is above the heavens and wide as all space! There is nothing in all creation that can be compared to this God, and yet this God is concerned about people, and the ordinary activities of people. God watches over all his creation. God raises the poor, lifts the broken and oppressed, corrects inequality, and injustice, and provides fruitfulness in otherwise barren conditions. Disparities between wealthy and poor, powerful and powerless, elite and excluded – situations present at the time the psalm was written, and still present today – these do not harmonise with the attributes of God.

What must then be called into question is people’s attitudes towards those who suffer from poverty, inequality, and despair. Those who participate in activities that contribute to the poverty of others; those who isolate people into categories for discrimination; those who exclude the childless from circles of friendship are reminded that these attitudes do not align with God’s care for people.

Instead, the psalmist affirms that those in the ash heaps of life and dust piles of despair will be lifted up. This mighty God helps people find dignity within the community. This God hears the prayers of the discouraged. This God also hears the prayers of the childless couple. Coming out of the Hebrew tradition, the psalm reminds people of God’s answer to the prayers of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, & Hannah who were once barren women. The psalm reminds people that the experience of the desolate will not be forever. There will be a day of justice, a day where the fields are levelled. The people of God will have security, contentment and fruitfulness. Their day of despair will not triumph, and a day of praise shall break forth.

Psalm 113 speaks of a God who is high and exalted, who also ‘stoops down’ to care for people. This is the God who sent Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua, which means ‘Yahweh saves’ – Jesus, who came to live among us, and who died and rose again for the world.

At this point our psalm connects with our two other readings. As Jesus says in our Luke passage, we are called to love and to serve others, and to invite those less fortunate than ourselves to our table. As St. Paul says in the Hebrews passage, we’re called to love each other, but we are not to forget to entertain strangers. That’s hospitality in its most God-honouring form.

I have this crazy vision of how exciting it would be if we focussed our energies on inviting strangers to come and eat here with us. Yes, it would be risky, and it might be uncomfortable. But I think it’s what Jesus would do if he were walking around our town today – he would invite everyone to come and eat at his table. Isn’t that what we, as the body of Christ, should also do? Not just our friends, our family and our 'presentable' neighbours; but as Jesus said, ‘...when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed’.

One of the most powerful ways God lifts up the lowly is through other people, so if we claim to be disciples of Jesus, then we will actively seek ways to serve the people who need to experience God’s love. That is praise in action.

We praise God for who God is, we praise God for our ongoing salvation, and we look forward what God has planned for the future when Jesus returns. Every time we sing ‘Hallelujah!’ we can be reminded of what God has already done, and that God will finish the salvation that is still taking place. God’s saving presence was demonstrated in the past, and will be demonstrated again when Jesus Christ, Yahshua Messiah, returns in glory. ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name’. Amen.


  1. That inviting strangers to dinner is really edgy, though. The closest I've been to that is to help a teensy bit with the Trinity opening the Great Hall to the homeless in bad weather, and inviting the homeless to dinner with "us" on Thursday night at the Cathedral. Have not yet participated in the "Sandwich Ministry," at Trinity in which bag lunches are passed out. But none of that is inviting strangers to dinner...

  2. Edgy, yes. I think hosting the homeless in the Great Hall does qualify. In fact, I was trying to allude to the invitation of strangers to the Lord's Table as well. Complete strangers in the home is probably unwise, but there are a lot of people who we know, but not very well, whom we could invite. I think we all tend to invite people we know well and like being around. It's much more challenging inviting people who are less easy to like.


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