Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord! Psalm 148 (NRSV)
The words of Psalm 148 might seem familiar to any of us who are familiar with an Episcopal Church Morning Prayer service, because some of this rings familiar in the words of Canticle 12, “A Song of Creation.” Canticle 12 comes from The Song of the Three Young Men (also known as the Prayer of Azariah) from the apocryphal portions of Daniel; this song is heavily based in several Psalms, borrowing not just from Psalm 148, but also from Psalms 103 and 136.
What always strikes me with this Psalm is it, as does Canticle 12, illustrates things I am normally not in the habit of praising, lifting their praise to God. Imagining the stars and heavens and trees praising God is easy for me–sea monsters, hailstones, and storms…not so much. What particularly comes to mind for me is the difficulty I had in praising God while volunteering in the aftermath of the Joplin, MO tornado. I stood beside my truck in the middle of the debris field, turning and seeing in every direction I turned, nothing but devastation in every direction of the compass. My first thought was, “Huumph. The insurance companies call these “acts of God”–and people are supposed to find God in this.”
The irony, and the miracle, of course, in this, was at the end of my short volunteer stint, I had seen God in this–many times over. God was in the faces of the power and light crews from all over the country accepting Gatorade from the back of our truck. God shined like a beacon in the face of a woman who brought her toddler to the distribution center barefooted because he had no shoes. God shattered denominational boundaries by riding shotgun along with the Presbyterian minister and the two Mormon missionaries who were assigned to distribute supplies donated by Catholic Charities with me. God grinned through stained and missing teeth from the man who showed me his splenectomy scar from being pinned in his house, who told me in no uncertain terms that he had been blessed by this tragic event of nature. His words still ring out in the middle of the night–“I never knew the world was such a good place.”
The words of this Psalm call us to a strange invitation–an invitation to consider the possibility that the things that we are absolutely certain God cannot possibly exist within them, are, indeed, singing praise to God. How are we called to respond to their song?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepsicatoid