Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Even when you think you can't deal with it anymore, praise is part of God's plan for moving you forward.l

Obviously, Koreans are getting a lot of attention from PSY’s video about Gangnam Style, his parody of materialism, status, and shallowness. It’s funny. It’s preposterous. It’s entertaining. But this morning, I want to talk about “Yonggwan Style.” If I haven’t abused the Korean too much for the sake of a pun, I’m talking about Glory with a capital “G,” Glory that exists in God’s Light.

Of course, the Glory that exists in God’s Light isn’t surface glitter that lasts for a little while and then, you have to pick up the litter after the party. And the Glory that exists in God’s Light isn’t a “see and be seen” relationship that may look glamorous on the eyes, but doesn’t comfort you when you need somebody real. The Glory that exists in God’s Light is a GLORY, a power, influence, and resource, that provides all we need to be all that we can be. The Glory that exists in God’s Light is a GLORY that makes life worth living because it is lived in partnership with God of ALL. And the Glory that exists in God’s Light doesn’t depend on sound and special effects to get our attention. Oh, sometimes God uses that and God’s special effects are better than anyone’s, but God doesn’t have to use that.

In fact, today’s passage begins with a strange combination—silence and praise. The song begins with silence and ends with a shout. Frankly, it reminds me that we need some of both in worship in order to remember all that God’s Glory is. I’m going to read today’s text in five parts and comment on each (though the first verse will be the longest discussion), and I will hope that God will help us learn more about our relationship with God as we do so. Again, this morning, I’ll be reading from my translation from the Hebrew text, so it may read slightly different from your favorite translation.

As per our tradition, here is Pastor Johnny’s Translation of Psalm 65:1-13 from the Hebrew (Hebrew numbers in []).

Title [1] For the Leader, a Psalm Appropriate for David, a Song

1 [2] Before You is dumbstruck awe, praise, O God, in Zion

And before You, a vow will be completed.

2 [3] All flesh will come to You, the One Who Hears Prayer.

3 [4] The things of iniquity overwhelm me;

Our transgressions, YOU will cover [atone] them.

At first, I didn’t get it. The initial verse of this song or stanza of this poem begins with the word for silence, resting, or ceasing to do something just before it speaks of praise on the temple hill of Jerusalem, just before it speaks of offering a sacrifice. I can just imagine the crowds in the temple watching the preparation, the hymns being sung, the prayers lifted aloud simultaneously, and even the bleating, cooing, and mooing of the animals gathered in the courtyard prior to the offering of sacrifices. So, what is it with this word for silence? Why is it so important for worship? Is it merely a term for “waiting” as it is translated in so many translations? [ASV, KJV, implied in Holman, implied in New Century, NIV, NKJV, implied in NRSV, implied in RSV] I don’t think so. I think it is more than waiting, although “anticipation” is part of it.

We speak of the “calm before the storm.” There was a trope in old western and army movies where one of the characters would say, “It sure is quiet out there tonight.” Then, the wise old, grizzled cowboy hero or veteran would reply, “Yeah, too quiet!” You knew they were in for it. They needed to anticipate a sneak attack. We sit in partially lit theaters awaiting the start of a theatrical or musical production and a rumbling murmur sounds like the drone of giant bees hiving in the audience. Then, the lights blink, the audience decibel level drops and people’s eyes turn toward the stage. Any residual sound is hushed, reverential. Suddenly, there is anticipation. The main event is about to occur. The curtain is about to rise.

It reminds me of a beautiful hymn by Ralph Vaughn Williams, the late British composer. In “For All The Saints,” as well as the version based on Philippians 2:5-11 (“All Praise to Thee”), the organist plays an introduction, the music director conducts the upbeat, and everyone is ready to sing on the downbeat. There is just one problem. The downbeat is a REST for the singers while the organ plays one low note. You’re already to sing, but you have to pause. Then, the verse seems so much more majestic. The anticipation, the musical version of “Wait for it!” leads us into a deeper experience— more awareness of what is going on. I believe it is necessary in worship to pause long enough to make room for an awareness of God.

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