Praise Gives Perspective / by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

Well, the cold has finally come in earnest. On days like these my heart goes out to those who don’t have a warm place to sleep. It seems incredible that anyone or anything could survive when the temperature remains below freezing for days, even weeks, on end.

But as harsh and inhuman as the cold may be, Psalm 148 reminds us that, along with all the other seemingly chaotic and destructive forces in creation, it exists to praise God. “Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!”

What does it mean for the Psalm to call all things, even deadly and dangerous things, things indifferent or frankly hostile to humanity, to praise God? Do we imagine that stormy winds and the vacuum of space have choice or intelligence in the human sense of those words? I don’t think that’s the point the psalm is making; instead, I think it teaches us something about what “praise” means.

Yes, praise is something we humans choose to do, an act of will and voice and body. But in Psalm 148 praise is also something much broader and more profound -- it is the glory that is given to God whenever anything, human or nonhuman alike, acts in accordance with God’s word. On a clear, cold night when we look up and it seems that the stars are singing, we are to join with them; doing the dance, living out the dynamics of a beautifully ordered creation, appreciating the life spun for us on the Master’s loom.

This kind of praise gives us perspective, reminds us that God’s will goes beyond peace and goodwill among people. It re-centers us on the Creator and gives us a sense of camaraderie with the moon and sun, the waves and mountains. Even the cutting cold is able, in its proper time and proper way, to be part of giving praise to God, whose glory is above earth and heaven.

May all our lives reflect that praise.

Blessings of broad perspective be with you all as we survey the past year and look to the next,