Weekly Reflection (17th August 2020)
A very good morning to you. I trust that you had a good week. Once again, it is a pleasure to spend this few minutes with you. A very warm welcome to you whether you are joining us for the first time or has been with us for some time now.
As we Melbournians continue our stage 4 lockdown, and you have you own set of restrictions where you are, may we all keep safe and stay healthy.
May I begin with a prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola. It is a beautiful prayer that I feel may sum up our responses to the pandemic we are all facing today.
Let us pray:
Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest, To labour and not to ask for reward,
Save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.
The Prayer of the Week
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
God of freedom, you have broken the tyranny of sin and sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts: give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that all people may know the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Praise the Lord.Praise the name of the Lord; praise him, you servants of the Lord,
2 you who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
5 I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
In the midst of the doom and gloom brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, I would like us to turn our eyes and focus on God rather to the chances and changes of our temporal life. Once we see who our God is and how awesome he is, we cannot but echo the words of the psalmist who wrote Psalm 135.
This Psalm is a Psalm of Praise. It begins and ends with one word “Hallelujah”. Hallelujah means “Praise the Lord”.
1. Praise the LORD
The Psalmist begins with a call to praise the Lord (v. 1-2)
Praise the name of the Lord; praise Him, O you servants of the Lord! They who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
First, he calls on the priests and Levites who would stand or minster in the house of the LORD for priestly and temple duties. Then he calls on those who are in the courts of the house of God. This may speak of worshippers had no access to the house of the LORD – for only priests could enter the holy place. This was a call to all God’s people to praise Him. “While the previous psalm greeted chiefly the Levites on night watch, this one has a great and varied throng in view, priestly and lay.” (Kidner)
So, whether we are ministering directly in worship or whether we are assisting or a worshipper among the congregation, the Psalmist calls us all to praise God. It is a call for stirring, passionate praise to God, but not one that runs only on the fuel of emotion. This Psalm gives many reasonable, logical reasons why we should praise the LORD.
2. Reasons to praise the LORD
First, Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; (v.3a)
We should praise God because He is good. We sometimes take God’s goodness for granted. He is good, and His goodness is unsearchable. God shows us His goodness in both material and spiritual blessings.
Second, sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant (v.3b)
We should praise God because it is pleasant, it benefits the one who praises Him. This should never be the primary reason, because then worship has a focus on self-gratification. Yet worship does do us good, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fact that it is pleasant. Praising God from the heart is awesome.
Third, For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
We should praise the Lord for His grace. (v. 4) Israel was not a treasure before God chose her. After He chose her, she became precious. He did not choose Israel because it were great, but because He is great in love. In the same way God chose us to be His children because of his love and grace for us. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16)
God chose us to be His treasured possession. This word in Hebrew is “segullah.” It means that we are God’s special most precious and costly jewels that he keeps in store for himself, and for his own special service and use.
Fourth, I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. (v.5-7)
We should praise Him for His greatness. What god is like our God? In declaring the greatness of God, the Psalmist said “I know.” This is not only head knowledge but an intimate experiential knowledge. He is not speaking theoretically but declaring with authority because of his personal experiences of God.
Here, the Psalmist used two great titles or names for God. i) Yahweh which points to the covenant God of Israel is great and, ii) Adonai which means that He is the Master of all is above all gods. God is exalted above all the pretended deities of the pagans.
He then describes God’s sovereignty in creation Yahweh as having ultimate power, with the ability to do whatever He desires. His power extends everywhere, in the heavens and on earth, in the seas. It extends to the clouds, from the ends of the earth, in lightning, in rain and the wind from God’s storehouses.
Whatever your situation, do not lose sight of who your God is and what He is capable of.He is a God worthy of our praise. When you learn to praise the Lord for His goodness, His grace, His greatness and His power, you will discover how pleasant it is in spite of your circumstances.
Come, lift up your eyes to see how good and great God is. Then your lips and hearts will shout ‘Hellelujah!’.
The Morning Collect
Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. May we rekindle the gift of God within us.
If you have not done so, may I invite you to join in Archbishop’s Freier’s invitation to light a candle each night at 8 pm and place it into a window of your home where no fire risk exists as a sign of hope from this coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Freier said: “For Christians, lighting a candle is a symbol of God’s light piercing into the darkness of our own despair. It’s our saying that God’s hope is the power that motivates us as we continue to endure these limitations and experience the sacrifice of this time.”
As you light your candle, you may also want to pray everyone affect and all the frontliners all over the world. Our Cathedral has created a webpage with shared social media resources, prayers and simple liturgy written by our Dean.[i]
You are invited to post an image of your candle along with the #CandlesAtCurfew hashtag on your social media as you share your thoughts with others.
Thank you again for sharing this time together. Do have a safe and joyful week. May we not forget to praise God each day this week. Till we meet again here next Monday. God bless you and your loved ones.