The Joy of Worship in the Temple
To the leader: according to The Gittith. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.[a]
As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.
~ Psalm 84 (NRSV)
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you felt really happy? What was it that made you so happy? Maybe going to a birthday party or an amusement park? Perhaps the first day of summer vacation or, for some parents, the first day back to school! Maybe you or a family member got into the college that you wanted or got the job you’d been longing for. Or perhaps when you got to hold a kitten or a little baby in your arms.
I want you to think about something for just a minute. What does it feel like to be happy? Where do you feel happiness in your body? Maybe you feel warm on the inside, or your heart feels extra big, or for just a few minutes, your mind lets go of the things that you normally worry about and you just relax.
Well, this morning we heard from Psalm 84 and in it, the psalmist talks about happiness. Now, I wonder, can you remember any stories from the Bible when people were really happy? How about when the angels sang to the shepherds telling them that Jesus was born? They were pretty happy then, weren’t they? Or how about when the disciples realized that they fed five thousand people with just a few fish and few loaves of bread? I think they were probably tired, but pretty happy then too. Or you might even remember the story of Abraham and Sarah when Sarah finds out that she is going to have a baby in her old age. And what does she do? Scripture says that she laughs out loud because she is so happy!
Folks, if we decided that we want to be happy this afternoon, what would we do? I know that my daughter Abbey, to be happy, would go to the zoo to see the animals because she loves animals. And my son Leo, he would probably go fishing. Some people, to be happy, would curl up in a hammock with a book, while others would go out on an adventure. You see, we all find happiness in different ways. But the Psalmist says that it’s easier to be happy when we spend time with God, when we trust in God, and when we depend on God to care for us. Did you hear that? The Psalmist says that it’s easier to be happy when we spend time with God, when we trust in God, and when we depend on God to care for us. And I think that is very true, isn’t it? It’s much easier to be happy when we feel safe and supported, and when we let go of the things that worry us in our lives. Right?
Now this time of year, with the new school year starting, we might all feel a little anxious. Students get nervous about the first day of school because they worry about making new friends. Parents get nervous, especially when they are sending their student off to a new school. Even teachers and principals and bus drivers get a little nervous sometimes, because the school year is new, and they know that there will be new students and family to get used to. We all feel a little nervous sometimes when we try something new.
Now if you start to feel nervous, one of the best things to do is to trust in God. Sometimes you can even say a little prayer to ask God to be with you when you are doing something new, something that you might be nervous about. And the good news is that God is always with us, in good times and in bad, when we are happy and when we’re sad, and when we’re nervous, and every time in between because God never leaves us.
But there is one more thing that I’ve learned that helps me to be happy, even in times when I feel nervous or afraid. You see, I find that if I focus on my worry and my nervousness, it only gets worse, and it starts to overwhelm me. But if I reach out and try to help someone else, it not only helps me to share God’s love with someone, but it makes me feel, happy to shine a little light into someone else’s world.
I recently heard about a mom who started an activity with her three-year-old son. She decided that together they would find something that they could give, each day, for 365 days. That’s a whole year! Now her family and friends thought that she was crazy. They said that she was biting off more than she could chew, but she didn’t let that bother her. She and her son just looked for something each day to give of themselves. They took one day at a time.
The first day they took some old towels and blankets that had been laying around their house and donated them to their local animal shelter. When they got there, the little boy saw a bunch of kittens laying on a blanket and he asked if the kittens were going to cuddle on his blanket too. The woman at the shelter said, “Absolutely!” And the little boy got so excited to know that what he had given was going to make a difference. The mom knew, at that moment, that this year of giving was going to change their lives.
The next day they took three minutes to pick up trash at the playground. Again, the happiness they both felt in making a difference in the world was astounding. Little by little, they found that the more they gave and the more they helped people, animals, and the planet, the more gratitude they felt and the happier their lives became.
The mom actually went online and started a program called “365 Give,” and now an entire curriculum has been developed teaching the importance of gratitude and working to make the world a better place. And believe it or not, that curriculum is now being used in schools all over the world!
As their website reads: “365 Give inspires people to create a better, happier world by developing a habit of giving — one person, one give, one day at a time.” And as the mom says, “It’s easy enough that a three-year-old can do it!”
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, if you start to feel nervous or anxious, or afraid, remember that God is always with you, and remember that you are amazing just the way you are. Then, think about something that you can do to make the world a better place. Sit with someone on the bus that is feeling nervous about starting school. Listen to someone at work that is struggling. Donate something that you don’t need anymore. Smile at a stranger. Pick up a piece of trash that you see in a parking lot.
Friends, if you trust in God and live a life of gratitude, it doesn’t mean that you won’t face stumbling blocks and struggles along the way, but your heart will be filled to overflowing. And even in the midst of your struggles, you’ll always find something that makes you happy.
So my friends, may it be so, thanks be to God. Amen.