Our Disciple I Bible Study class has gotten off to a great start. There are fifteen of us committed to reading the Bible through together for the next thirty-four weeks. We’ll be meeting for two hours every Sunday evening to talk about what we’ve read and to explore questions and reactions together. The group is a wonderful cross-section of our congregation–young adults, older adults, brand new and long-time members–and we bring all of our life experiences with us as we gather around the scriptures every week. Just two weeks into the journey, we’ve had some amazing conversations!
Last night some of us got into a conversation about “praise.” The theme word for the week was “Wonder,” and we had read the two creation stories, as well as parts of Job and several psalms. (If you want to sample some of what we read, you can read Psalm 8. It’s short but powerful!) Each of the scripture passages points to the glory of God, the wonder of God’s creation, the beauty of the world that God has created and the amazing truth that God has asked humankind to care for it all. It was hard to read all of those texts and not shout, “Wow! Praise God!” There are so many scripture texts, especially the psalms, that call us to “Praise God!” But what does it mean to you to praise God? How do you express your joy and gratitude to God? When was the last time you really felt full of praise for God? Unreserved, uninhibited praise?
On Sunday night, I learned a thing or two about praise. After our Disciple group finished, we headed upstairs to the sanctuary for the Imani African Children’s Choir program. It was a fundraiser for Raise the Roof, the ministry started by David and Marlene Ssebulime, with which we have partnered to build a school and sponsor children for education in Uganda. The house was packed, and the energy in the room was amazing. Then the drummers walked onto the chancel with their bright clothing and easy smiles. They began to play with all their might as the rest of the choir walked, skipped and jumped down the aisles singing God’s praises all the way. Watching their faces and seeing how they moved their bodies in full praise to God throughout the concert was inspiring to me. I thought, “I want to praise God with that kind of spirit!” As I reflect on that experience, I realize that I do not praise God nearly enough. Of course, I am a bit of an introvert and our culture is more reserved in a lot of ways than Ugandan or even ancient Israelite culture.
And I don’t believe that the only way to praise is with singing and dancing and waving my hands in the air. I can praise God with a whispered “Wow,” when I see the full moon, or with a quiet “Thank you,” when I see my children sleeping soundly. But what I realized on Sunday night was that my attitude toward God is not often an attitude of praise. Even in worship, as we’re singing hymns together, my mind is often wandering around other things. Ugh. I don’t want to be that way. I want to praise God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, with all my mind, with my whole body, with my voice–with all that I am. God deserves no less from me and you. So next time we are in worship together, let’s give ourselves permission to praise God in whatever way we feel led. Praise God!