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Rejoicing in the Psalms

One of the great blessings of the lectionary is that there are times that we encounter passages that we would rather not read on a certain day. It seems to me that in the Psalms appointed for the Daily Office, I am almost always forced to encounter a psalm of praise on a day that I don’t feel like praising. Often, I would rather sit in my disappointment, discouragement, or self pity than engage in praise. I would rather my praise be more about my own mood or feelings than about the greatness of God. In these times, saying aloud the psalms of praise confronts, challenges, consoles, and changes my heart and my soul.

The book of Psalms ends with five psalms of exultant praise. Each of these psalms begins and ends with the command, “Praise the Lord!” In this season of Epiphany, I invite you to join me in reading these five psalms aloud at least once a day. It takes just over five minutes to say them. There are some difficult places that you may want to leave some time to pause and pray and even wrestle with these parts (living in South Texas, I struggle to praise God for cedars this time of year - Ps 148:9). There are some beautiful and encouraging parts that you may want to take time to savor. In each, there is an invitation and a command to join together with all things and "Praise the Lord!"

I wonder how God might change us in these five minutes a day.

Psalm 146 Lauda, anima mea

1 Praise the Lord, O my soul; *

while I live I will praise the Lord.

2 Indeed, as long as I have my being, *

I will sing praises unto my God.

3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man, *

for there is no help in them.

4 For when one breathes his last, he shall return again to the earth, *

and in that day all his thoughts perish.

5 Blessed is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help *

and whose hope is in the Lord his God,

6 Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is therein; *

who keeps his promise for ever;

7 Who does right to those who suffer wrong; *

and who feeds the hungry.

8 The Lord sets prisoners free; *

the Lord gives sight to the blind.

9 The Lord helps those who have fallen; *

the Lord loves the righteous.

10 The Lord cares for the strangers in the land;

he defends the fatherless and widow; *

but the way of the ungodly he makes crooked.

11 The Lord shall be King for evermore, *

even your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 147 Laudate Dominum

1 Praise the Lord, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God; *

indeed, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.

2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem, *

and gathers together the outcasts of Israel.

3 He heals those who are broken in heart, *

and binds up their wounds.

4 He counts the number of the stars, *

and calls them all by their names.

5 Great is our Lord, and great is his power; *

indeed, his wisdom is infinite.

6 The Lord lifts up the meek, *

and brings the ungodly down to the ground.

7 O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; *

sing praises with the harp unto our God,

8 Who covers the heavens with clouds,

and prepares rain for the earth, *

and makes the grass to grow upon the mountains,

and plants for the use of men,

9 Who gives food to the cattle *

and feeds the young ravens that call upon him.

10 He has no pleasure in the strength of a horse; *

neither does he delight in any man’s strength.

11 But the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him *

and put their trust in his mercy.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; *

praise your God, O Zion.

13 For he has made strong the bars of your gates *

and has blessed your children within you.

14 He makes peace in your borders *

and fills you with the finest of wheat.

15 He sends forth his commandment upon the earth, *

and his word runs very swiftly.

16 He gives snow like wool *

and scatters the white frost like ashes.

17 He casts forth his ice like crumbs; *

who is able to abide his frost?

18 He sends out his word and melts them; *

he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

19 He declares his word unto Jacob, *

his statutes and ordinances unto Israel.

20 He has not dealt so with other nations; *

neither have they knowledge of his laws.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 148 Laudate Dominum

1 Praise the Lord. O praise the Lord of heaven; *

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his; *

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon; *

praise him, all you stars of light.

4 Praise him, all you highest heavens, *

and you waters that are above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the Lord, *

for he spoke the word, and they were made;

he commanded, and they were created.

6 He has made them stand fast for ever and ever; *

he has given them a law which shall not be broken.

7 Praise the Lord upon earth, *

you sea monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, *

wind and storm, fulfilling his word;

9 Mountains and all hills, *

fruitful trees and all cedars;

10 Beasts and all cattle, *

creeping things and birds of the air;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *

princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young men and maidens, *

old men and children together.