All Lands Summoned to Praise God
A Psalm of thanksgiving.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name
For the Lord is good;Psalms 100:1-5 (NRSV)
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Friends, I want you to think for just a minute about what it is that brings you the greatest joy? I’m talking about that feeling deep down inside, like being a child on Christmas morning, or walking through the front gates of Disney World, or the first glimpse of your soon-to-be spouse on your wedding day, that kind of joy that makes the rest of the world stop and fills you to overflowing.
I wonder, how long it has been since you felt that kind of joy? For some of you, I have a feeling it’s been quite a while. Now I don’t say that to be judgmental or to make anyone feel bad, but I know that a lot of us are very busy. We have a lot of responsibilities. Some of us have pain and illness that we deal with daily, or we struggle with our finances, or we worry about our kids or our parents, or both. And heck, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, folks!
But to be honest, joy is not affected by any of those things. Happiness might be because happiness is affected by our surroundings and the situations that we find ourselves in. It is based on other people, relationships, material things, events, and thoughts. But joy, joy comes from somewhere deep, deep inside. We experience joy when we decide to trust God in all circumstances. And as Christians, we experience joy when we live our lives as Jesus has taught us to.
Joy doesn’t mean we don’t experience feelings like happiness, sadness, pain, or grief. But while those emotions only have room for one feeling at a time, joy has room for lots of feelings. Have you ever experienced joy in the midst of grief? During heartache? Or while you’re in pain? Well, that’s the difference between joy and happiness.
It is often said that we must choose joy, and I think that is true to a point, but I also think we also have to cultivate it. We need to work at experiencing joy in our lives because it’s not something that we can one day just decide we want. One of the best ways of experiencing joy in your life and seeing glimpses of goodness and grace all around you is by living a life of gratitude and giving thanks for every little thing that God has given you.
Friends, when we spend more time being thankful for what we have–and I don’t mean expensive houses or fancy cars, but I mean breath and life, friends to talk with, food to nourish us, and the gifts of grace all around us–then we learn to open our hearts and our minds and to live a more joy-filled life.
In our scripture reading today, David was filled with joy at the privilege of being able to worship God. He sang out with thanksgiving, making a joyful noise because he appreciated what God had given him, and I can guarantee you that it was not fame and fortune!
Folks, I know that life is not easy right now. I know that we are all struggling in our own way. And sure, it’s easy to complain and see the problems. It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have and what we can’t do. But what if we focused on the good? What if we treasured the gifts we’ve been given? What if instead of taking for granted the air we breathe, we gave thanks for it?
November is often a month when we think about giving thanks, and that’s a great place to start. But rather than making a list of the physical things that we are thankful for, let’s think about the people, the moments, and the everyday, ordinary things that we so often take for granted like life and breath and family and faith and the privilege to worship. Then, our hearts and minds might be opened, and just like David, we might make a joyful noise as we give thanks for the privilege of worshiping and praising God!
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your week ahead, be thankful for the little things. Appreciate the people, the moments, and the experiences in your lives. They may not be perfect, but they are yours. And then start practicing an attitude of gratitude. If you do, you just might find yourself filled with so much joy that you sing out like David, giving thanks for every moment that you find yourself in!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!