July 10, 2017

Ideas and Variations on Psalm 150

There are some ideas I can’t get out of my head, even if they might not be very good. One idea is that it could be fun to play with pots and pans in a pool. I know this is a bad idea, ridiculous, in fact, but it still floats to the surface of my psyche at times and I push it back down, like a Dutch oven sinking to the bottom of the diving area.

Other ideas are less ridiculous.

Several of them are even liturgical.

One is a vision of collaborating with a band to present Psalm 150 together. When we get to verses 3-5, instruments blast out after their cue, playing a sort of liturgical version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Spoken text, music, spoken text, spoken text. But I have yet to be in a context with trumpets, harps, timbrels, and dancers, so this idea may have to continue waiting.

So until there is a Psalm 150 band, I have invited Scripture readers to compose their own version of verses 3-5 based on their experience, and here are some of the ways they have praised God:

  • Praise him with the first cup of coffee.
  • Praise him with whistle and keyboard.
  • Praise him while caring for the earth.
  • Praise him while making dinner for my family.
  • Praise him with the sound of children’s laughter.

We read verses 1-2 together, and then the participants take turns reading their own verses. We end, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”

If you wanted to add your own verse to this list, consider the following: What do you use to praise God? This may be simple. I praise God in a lettuce patch, or while looking out a plane at cruising height when I see the city of clouds and tiny ships in the Gulf of Mexico. But if you want to go deeper, ask yourself, “When don’t I praise God? How can the Holy Spirit transform these moments into times of praise or prayer?” When I invite God to transform these less rosy aspects of my life, I may be able to add:

  • Praise him in taking out the compost.
  • Praise him in sweeping up the crumbs.
  • Praise him while filing taxes.
  • Praise him when filling out boring school forms.

I have also prayed this Psalm like a jazz tune, coloring the sanctuary with connotations of the entire cosmos as the sanctuary of God, drilling down to my own congregation’s small sanctuary. In my prayer, I proclaimed God’s praises in the mighty heavens, the planets, the satellites. I have invited the organ, piano, and bass to praise God. I have proclaimed God’s praises for his triune activity in the world: creation, redemption, sustenance.

I invite you to do the same.

Psalm 150: Adapted by Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence

Praise the Lord with me, my friends.
Praise him outside and inside, for it’s all his.
Praise him for what he’s done, what he’s doing, and what he will do.
Praise the Lord while picking lettuce, picking up the children,
pitching a baseball or making a sales pitch.
Praise the Lord when you wake up in the middle of the night,
and when you get drowsy after lunch.
Praise the Lord when you listen to country music,
when you drive through the country, when you think about your country.
Praise the Lord when the worms crawl out after a rain,
when the rains don’t stop, when the rains don’t come.
Praise the Lord even when you have considered all the facts,*
when you can’t solve the problem, when no one listens to your good solution.
Praise the Lord loud with your windows down, even when you don’t know all the words.
Because if we all did this at the same time while we were at the stoplight,
it would
Praise the Lord.

*”Rejoice, though you have considered all the facts.” from Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front.”

Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence lives with her husband and two children in the western suburbs of Chicago. She serves as the associate pastor for spiritual formation at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Hinsdale, Illinois, where she preaches and leads formation and discipleship programming for children and adults. Joy holds a M.Div. from Calvin Theological Seminary and MCS from Regent College (Vancouver). She’s always on the lookout for new and old ways to tell God’s story as well as wild foods she can feed her family and friends. She has written for many organizations, including Christianity Today International.