Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Beginning and Ending with Praise

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God. - Psalm 147:1

Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. - Ephesians 5:19 (GNT)

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 33:12-22; Ezra 6:13-7:28; Romans 1:1-12

Today, to go along with the praise-themed verses of the day, we have a story about praising God at the conclusion of a long, difficult project, as Ezra's work on the temple and city of Jerusalem are complete. And in our first reading from Paul's letter to the Romans, he introduces himself mostly by introducing God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all there, in these few verses!) and glorifying what God has done for us in Christ. This is a beginning, the first taste of what will become a powerful and lasting effort by Paul in Rome.

This combination of scriptures reminds me how good it is to praise God at all of our beginnings and endings. We might think of life in the church, and life in general, as a series of projects or challenges or stages in a journey. Complete one, rest a while, start another. But it's good to remember that the whole journey, the whole process of life, takes place in the context of God's presence and guidance and grace. God leads us forward, weaves our stories in and out of the stories of others, and draws new people and new events together for growth and abundant life.

It's good, at the beginning of something new, to stop and praise God for getting us where we are already. The praising renews our faith and trust in God, and the singing unites us and propels us ahead. This is what Martin Luther had in mind when writing a prayer for the beginning of each day:
In the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say: 
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. If you wish, you may in addition recite this little prayer as well: 
I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask that you would also protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
After singing a hymn perhaps (for example, one on the Ten Commandments) or whatever else may serve your devotion, you are to go to your work joyfully.
And it's good, at the end of something we've been working on for a while, to stop and celebrate what's been accomplished, new learnings, new relationships, new life. Again our faith and trust are renewed, and the rest we take next begins with the sound of gratitude ringing in our ears. Again, as Martin Luther wrote in his prayer for the end of each day:
In the evening, when you go to bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say:
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. If you wish, you may in addition recite this little prayer as well:
I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected me today. I ask you to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously to protect me tonight. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Then you are to go to sleep quickly and cheerfully.
It is good to sing praises to God, alone and together, at our beginnings and at our endings, for ourselves and for the people around us.

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