25 July. Psalms 146-150
The last five of the 150 psalms are all songs of praise. Each of them begins and ends with the phrase “praise the Lord!” or as sometimes rendered closer to the original language, “Alleluia!”.
Between them they give many reasons why God is to be praised, ranging from his infinite power and wisdom, his creation of all the heavenly bodies (as we would now say, the universe) and all living beings, down to his loving concern for the most basic aspects of everyday life (he sets prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down and upholds the orphan and the widow, 146:7-9).
In response to that, Psalm 148 calls on every aspect of creation to praise its maker. Not only angels, people and animals, but also sun, moon and stars, mountains, even weather systems. There is a commendable equality in this: “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together!” (v.11-12). All these are to “praise the Lord”. St Francis, that most loved saint who showed love equally to God, people and all of nature, paraphrased this as his “canticle of the creatures”, an original painting of which by an artist from Assisi hangs on our wall as a reminder of our honeymoon.
The psalms finish with a written finale as loud as that of any symphony. To do justice to God’s immense love and power requires us to praise him, not only with our voice but with instruments of all kinds – wind, string and percussion are all identified. Most religious traditions find music aids worship, and singing key texts makes them easier to remember.
The call to worship also includes dancing, an activity frowned on by more conservative Christians. But actually, true worship must involve the body as well as the mind. And when stirring music is played, who can resist at least tapping their feet? So dance has also been part of many religious cultures, though not commonly so in Christianity today. At the very end the Psalms are summed up with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”