I have a very clear memory of being very young, and visiting my future kindergarten classroom with my friend Amy who was already in kindergarten. I don’t remember what I was feeling or thinking at the time. I might have been nervous about being in a new school. I might have been excited about getting ready to go to school every day like my sister. I might have thought I needed to prove I was good enough, smart enough, ready for the responsibility of being a kindergartener. What I do remember is that I was not good at raising my hand before saying something or answering a question. I had things to say. They needed to be said right now. What I do remember is that by the time I started my own kindergarten year, I had learned to raise my hand, or maybe keep my mouth shut.
There are many times and places we’re taught to be quiet. School, work, movies. My family saw Les Miserables on Broadway years ago and what I remember is that the man sitting right there hummed the whole way through the show. His wife kept nudging him and whispering for him to be quiet.
Churches like our, like the ones most of us grew up in, are filled with times of quiet listening and organized singing. We keep our voices down and train our children to not make a ruckus.
And then we have Psalm 100, which invites us to make a joyful noise. And I wonder what that sounds like? What does joy sound like? Looks like? Feels like? Is it the laughter of a small child when they can’t contain their giggles? finally playing a piece of music you’ve practiced a hundred times and this time, you don’t have to work at it, and it connects to your soul? A roar of a concert? the cheers of a win? the singing of the birds in spring? Is it a “yay!”? A polite golf clap?
What does joy look like in church? Actor and comedian and activist Eddie Izzard during one of her standups years ago, talk about the Church of England, being the predominant church where she is from, marveled at how people with power, influence, and means can sing “hallelujah” with no joy at all, when the black church–having come out of oppression, slavery, and abuse personal and system can sing, does church, with such gusto.
The Psalmist asks us to make shouts of joy. Which I suppose might just be shouting and noise making, but joy often comes with movement. So maybe we can shout joy with our bodies too. With our hands, with our feet, with our faces. With whatever and with all we are able to.
The Psalmist doesn’t just ask or suggest we praise God with no reason–but because the God that we worship is the creator of all things, of you and of me, and that we should know it. Of course, we are translating from the Hebrew to English over thousands of years, and knowing might not mean the same thing that we think it means today. We know things because we learn them, we study them, we can often recite them. I know a very early 90’s rap that lets me know all the books of the bible. And no, we will not be hearing that. This isn’t that kind of know, it isn’t the knowledge or information or idea. This “know” is the kind that settles into you, that lives deep in your bones, that courses through your veins, that influences your moments.
I think we all have something. For some it is that there are laws of the universe follows and they rely on that. That all creatures and humans are connected through the ecosystem or by Christ. That you too are a creature, that there is a God, a divinity, a force that holds that world together. That it is good. It’s that which you know to be true that finds your place in the cosmos. To know in your core that God made you, made us, that we are God’s people, that we are cared for, like sheep, and since we’ll be looking at the 23rd Psalm in a couple of weeks, we’ll get back to the sheep thing then. But knowing this finds your place in the universe.
While we grow, we start to understand ourselves, recognizing that I have control of the movement of my hands, that I can manipulate the objects around me, and maybe the people around me because when I drop a toy–someone will pick it up, if I throw myself from the air–someone will catch me. We can claim objects, declare them “mine.” We have to be taught to share toys or parents with siblings. We have to learn we’re not the only ones with ideas who get to talk. Some learn these lessons better than others. Of course, that’s what we are told and taught as children but the world seems to be full of contradictions. Our hyper capitalistic society teaches us that we are the center of our universe. It teaches that you have made it on your own, you are more deserving what you have than others, that you ought to have more, better, best. It is the articles on Facebook telling you the 50 things you NEED from Amazon. It’s fast fashion and all the latest and shiny-est.
And not that you shouldn’t have nice things it’s about where you place yourself in the universe–buying just and fair trade products is usually more costly but it decentralizes you, recognizes the connection of all of creation, and influences the market place to support the care of all those made in the image of God.
And we have been watching a democratic system that, at its highest ideal is to care for population, we have watched it be used in toxic ways to exclude people from the process, to deny folx support in their times of need, to create a system that some win and others lose completely. Every individual for themselves by any means necessary.
Again and again we are told that we are the center of our own universe. By knowing God in our core, by worshiping and praising the God who made us, we are decentralizing ourselves. We are making a statement that we are not the center of our world, it is not all about me, or you, or one person. Which means we are accountable to each other, we’re in this together. Worship and praise finds our place in the cosmos and it’s connection and it’s deep in our bones.
We have music in worship for such a reason. It too reaches our core. Have you been to a concert and felt the beat in your body? Or, I was at a worship service in a room full of people singing Christmas songs and the sense that we were connected with all the on heaven and earth. When people sing, it reduces stress. When choirs sing, they breathe in the same places and their hearts start to beat in the same rhythm. I think it exists in the song we sing together, some, if you have grown up around the mainline churches you probably know. Growing up, we sang this Psalm every Sunday–
Old 100th is this Psalm, ingrained in many of us that we can sing praise from deep in our memory. Let’s sing together, without the cats.
Our worship connects us to each other and to the God who holds the universe together.
Who we are and Whose we are, who made us, our place in the world, our connection with all of creation. That is why we celebrate, that is why we offer gratitude for all we do not control and all we are able to do. We offer praise for the creator of our complex beings and the world around us. Our God is good! God’s love and faithfulness endures.
So let’s make joyful noises. Let’s shout and sing and celebrate and dance. Let us join with all of creation and praise God.