February 7, 2021   What Do You Expect? 2 The Good News, by Pastor David

Psalm 147:1-11, 20 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God;
   for God is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2  The Lord builds up Jerusalem; God gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3  God heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
4  God determines the number of the stars; gives to all of them their names.
5  Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; God’s understanding is beyond measure.
6  The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; and casts the wicked to the ground.
7  Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.
8  God covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.
9  God gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 God’s delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor God’s pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11  but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear God, in those who hope in God’s steadfast love

In our moment of silence today, let’s reflect on the blessing of life and breath, of connection and love, of warmth and a beating heart.

February 7, 2021 What Do You Expect? 2 - the Good News
Holy Communion  
Praise God. Praise God for the snow. Praise God for the sun. Praise God for the cat who sits on my lap and warms my legs. Praise God for the birds and for the shelter they find somewhere out there on a day like this. Praise God for the children’s laughter as they delight in sledding down a hill, showing us what winter is really good for. 

Praise God for pianos and breath to sing. Praise God for Matthew on his birthday this weekend and for Kara who delights the world with her voice and enthusiasm. Praise God for funny people who make us laugh. Praise God for meaning makers - people who make movies that question and make us think, movies that inspire and bring us together, movies that simply make us feel good. Praise God for Ms. Edna Williams and her ministry to people who are hungry. 

Praise God for leaders in our community. Leaders who get things done and have been getting things done for ages, and new leaders who get things done and help folks who are getting just a wee bit tired. Praise God for shovels and snowblowers and people who take shovel in front of other people’s houses!

Praise God for clouds - clouds that get our imagination going, clouds that bring rejuvenating weather patterns, clouds that move in the wind, and show us how big our environment really is. 

I could go on for the whole sermon today, and you could help me, praising God for all of creation, and everything in it and for our part in it. The Psalms are like that. Some of them are full of praise - especially the four Psalms at the very end of the books of Psalms, number 146 to 150. Today Lisa read from the 147th Psalm, just one of these many psalms of praise. 

As I told folks in the Bible study this week, I decided to preach today from the Psalms because I was already getting tired of the sturm und drangb in the gospel of Mark. I’m excited about our study of Mark and our focus on the foundational gospel message from that community, but it is pretty intense, so we may need to take a break now and then.

Today as another snow storm threatens, I figured would be a good time to take our first break. Praise God. I was part of a Young Life group for a short time when I was in high school. We used to have breakfast together early in the morning and worship. It wasn’t really my style. They were a little over enthusiastic somehow. The reason I think about them today is they used to say “PTL” a lot. They might even have called the group “PTL.”  It stands for Praise the Lord. I think the young enthusiasm and heartfelt praising of God is a wonderful thing. God bless people who’s worship is full of praise and singing and waving of arms and crying at the magnificence of God’s love. 

Sometimes I think some of you think that I’m a little over the top in my insistence that we take time at the beginning of every meeting to share good news or pay attention to the good things in our lives. If you think I’m over the top, I can introduce you to some folks that really get into it. They might really make you roll your eyes.
I feel allied with those folks at least a little bit as I insist on the virtues of praise, the power of being aware every day of blessings and good news. The title of this sermon series is “What Do You Expect” I don’t know about you, but I expect everyone in this congregation to be able to offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving on the spot at any time. I expect you to expect good things. The gifts of our lives are so abundant, so prolific, how could we not be aware of them? For our own health and those around us, we really need to be able to notice, to be aware and able to give voice to those blessings with each other. 

I’m not talking about being optimistic. My teach Cornel West says “cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” He says “Optimism for me has never been an option. Because there’s too much suffering in the world.” He sees all that suffering clearly, across the board. “But hope is something else, you see, because hope is not spectatorial. It’s participatory. You’re already in the mess. You’re in the funk. What are you going to do? Hope is a verb as much as a virtue. Hope is as much a consequence of your action as it is a source of your action.

I ask our LIFE group leaders to practice opening their groups with good news and praise and thanksgiving, as constant practice in noticing and giving voice to God’s presence in every moment. I love the way the Psalmist in our reading today says, “God’s delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor God’s pleasure in the speed of a runner;” God delights the horse, not the strength of the horse. God’s pleasure is in the runner, the person, not just in how fast they are going.

Praise God for God’s love for us just the way we are. “God heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” Praise God for vaccinations and the ways in which we are headed into a time of recovery after a brutal year. Praise God for our life together. Praise God for today. and the love in this place and in all our places. Thanks be to God, because even in the midst of a pandemic, we know God is with us. We are not alone. God is healing and repairing us for hope and praise. . This is God’s good news.