I read and re-read this week’s biblical lectionaries. These collections are popular with some Christians, as they encourage people to read widely throughout the Scriptures and not to skip over unfamiliar or unpopular sections. Their weakness is they also fail to cover everything and often try to put together some passages that really don’t fit together. They also give more prominence to some scripture than frankly I think is worth underscoring in light of the God’s love in Jesus Christ. Overall, perhaps I should just think of the lectionary as a tool that reminds me that neither life nor scripture is always coherent or easy to understand.
However, except for a couple of strange verses, Psalm 149 is a great reminder of God’s goodness and the joy we experience in praising our Lord. Around the world, I have been amazed meeting people living in extreme poverty and often with HIV, but yet singing the praise of God. Yet I understood in India when a poor widow, whose husband had died from AIDS, shook her fist in the sky, and said “I’m so angry at God that I am forced to sell my body to feed my family.” Life is not always fair and it is not always easy to “praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.”
At times all of us feel doubts and even anger at God and the circumstances of our life. The good news is that, despite our wavering, God still loves us and seeks our goodness. God suffers with the suffering; God is marginalized with the marginalized; God “takes pleasure in his people” and seeks to “adorn the humble with victory.” How and when, we do not always know or see, but in faith we proclaim God’s ultimate goodness.
Personally, I believe God is active in the world, seeking to be co-partners with all of us in a loving, healing ministry. God depends upon us to be instruments of divine grace. God wills the end of HIV and other infectious diseases; God wills the end of extreme poverty; and God wills a world without war. But achieving these glorious ends requires our human engagement, not just divine intervention. As we discern where God is leading, and we join in that activity of love and healing, we can both “praise the Lord” and bring health and hope to God’s people.
To think about: Does God understand why some people have difficulty offering praise?
How can I express my praise and love of God?
Written By: Rev. Dr. Donald E. Messer, Executive Director, Center for Health and Hope: Focusing on Global HIV and AIDS.