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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2008-09-14 Romans 14:1-12, Psalm 92:1-4
“We Are The Lord's”
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning....

It's morning. The alarm goes off. What do you do?

Wouldn't it be great if you could spring out of bed, leap to the window, throw back the curtains, and burst into joyous songs of praise? Wouldn't it be great if you could go bounding around the house, with woodland creatures appearing in your windows, chirping, neighing, and hopping in time with you?

Dream on, Cinderella.

It's morning. The alarm goes off. What do you do?

Your arm goes out to the bedside table, whacking around, trying to find the cursed snooze button, right? No matter how old you get, your brain says, “Oh mom, just five minutes more?” (Have you seen the alarm clocks with the little wheels on the side? They look kind of like Wall-E. When the alarm goes off, the clock turns on its wheels and it goes rolling off the table, down onto the floor, and then runs and hides under the bed, where it stays, beeping, until you get up, crawl under the bed, catch it, and turn it off. I'm sure they work very well. Once.)

I like the morning. It's quiet. But if there are forest creatures who want to frolic, they can take it outside until after the second cup of coffee. Even morning people have to draw the line somewhere.

Do you like the morning? The writer of Psalm 92 loves the morning. He (or maybe she) embraces the rays of the morning sun like a Broadway spotlight from heaven as he sings praises to the Lord Most High. In early morning, he sings for joy at the work of God's hands. He grabs his lute, his lyre and his harp and starts jammin' in his jammies.

How grand are all your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very great.
The dullard cannot know these things;
because they're not awake.

Although the wicked sprout like grass
you burn them up like toast.
The morning sun shines just for me!
I love you, God, the most!

Of course if you lived with someone like this, no jury in the country would hold you responsible for your actions. Psalm-writers were different. Probably single. In the real world, maybe the writer's actions didn't always match his intentions. Even so, the psalm calls all worshipers of God to unbridled, timeless praise. This scripture calls you and me to praise. Big praise. Loud praise. Praise that starts first thing in the morning. Praise that continues all day long. Praise that ends with the last light of the setting sun, which back before electricity was the time people used to go to sleep so they might feel like singing in the morning. Praise. Praise all day. Praise all night. Praise from the choirs. Praise from the workers. Praise for what? Praise for the works of God's hands.

Praise for the works of God's hands.

According to the Apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Romans, it doesn't matter whether you roll out of bed and think, “This is the best day ever!” And it doesn't matter if you roll over and pull the covers over your head. It doesn't matter if you sing, or if you stumble into the shower muttering under your breath. What matters is whether you see the day as an opportunity for praise, no matter what kind of person you are. Morning person, night person – there's no need to pass judgment on our brothers and sisters for these things or for anything else. What we do – or don't do – in the course of the day passes judgment on ourselves. Do we see the day as a day for praise? Or not?

In this country, we're not focused on praise. We're focused on productivity. What'd you do today? What're you going to do today? How many things are on your to-do list? How many things did you check off your list? And we've got all these tools to make us more productive. We can talk on the phone while we're driving. We can text message each other in church. It's so cool to be alive in 2008.

But neither the writer of the psalm, nor the Apostle Paul measure their days by their productivity. Think about that. That's a foreign concept for most of us. We're not used to thinking like the Bible. We're used to thinking like... everyone else. We measure our days, and we praise God for... the works of OUR hands. I did this today, I accomplished that today, therefore it's a good day. Praise the Lord. If I get this done by the end of the week, if I achieve that goal, it'll be a good day. And if we don't? If someone gets in our way, if someone slows us down, if we get in the wrong line at Chik-fil-A and have to wait an extra couple of minutes for our not quite-as-fast food? Bad day. Bad karma. Low achievement test scores for September 14.

The Apostle Paul tells the Romans, who are constantly monitoring their achievements by comparing themselves to other people these words: (And see if they don't apply to you)

“We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.”

Life isn't about your productivity. We aren't supposed to praise God for the works of OUR hands, we're to praise God for the works of... whose hands? God's hands. The Bible tells us, praise God for the works of whose hands? God's hands. It's a good day, because of the works of whose hands? God's hands. We praise, we sing, we sleep, we wake not because of the works of our hands, but because of the works of whose hands? God's hands.

And, here's the clincher, your life has meaning because of the work of whose hands? God's hands. Your life has meaning because of the work of God's hands. In life and in death, you are God's work. You belong to the Lord.

So, Paul asks, why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.'

Which brings us back to the Psalmist, the guy to lived to praise, early in the morning. He praised God, but he was also kind of grumpy, about the people who weren't like him, about the people who didn't praise, the same way he did. The people who didn't want to hear his singing, any time of day. He's really grouchy around the middle. But he also knew enough to get over himself. He starts the psalm talking about how great it is that he can rise and sing. But he ends the psalm singing about how great God is, how God his rock and how God is his righteousness. The psalmist knows it's not about him, not about his productivity. The song's not about how much praise he can manufacture in one day. It's about God's works, and God's care. About showing that the Lord is upright, the Lord is his rock.

However you greet the day – whether it's with a song or with a slap of the snooze bar – however you greet the day – all your days are the work of God's hand. Not yours. You are the work of God's hand. Those people around you today – and tomorrow? They're the work of God's hand, too. Whether that makes you want to sing for joy or moan the blues really doesn't matter.

If we live, we live to the Lord. And if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. Today, make a choice. Choose to put aside what you think you have to do, and do what you think God wants you to do. You are the Lord's. And not the other way around.