Year C – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – For Heav’n O Praise the Lord (Psalm 148)

Summary–Over the past month, our attention has focused on Godly men who used their talents for translating early writings into Christian Hymns.  This week, we shift our eyes from the translator to the tune writer.  Traditional Psalters, to include “The Book of Psalms for Singing, 1973” puts Psalm 148 to the tune, St. Catherine’s written by Horatio R. Palmer (1834-1097).  Mr. Palmer started his musical career at a very early age through persistent prodding from his father who conducted their local church choir.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in his case and from the early age of seven, Horatio fell in love with music.  He would eventually direct choirs of his own in Chicago and New York in addition to teaching and composing music.  Palmer was most well known for his leadership in the Church Choral Union, a federation of church choir singers from New York City drawn from more than 200 congregations.  One combined concert in Madison Square Garden featured nearly four thousand singers.  For Palmer, music was an instrument of praise to the God who created all things from nothing; his music praised the God who saved His own people from their sins.  How appropriate it is for the man whose life was centered on praising God to write the tune for this praise-filled psalm.
Insight–When you go to church, who is worshipping with you?   Your family is, of course, in the pew next to you.  Sitting behind you are your friends, neighbors, classmates, and teachers.  There in front of you is your pastor, your elders, and your deacons.  Is there anyone else worshipping with you each Lord’s day?  What about the congregation down the street?  Yes they are worshipping with you.  How about your Aunt on the other side of the state?  Yes, her too.  Anyone else?  Today’s psalm exhorts us to see how the Triune God is worshipped in every part of creation; from heaven above, from earth below and  from among His people, which the psalmist calls ‘O Israel’s race’.  Look at how each part of the psalm builds layer upon layer of praise to God.
The first two stanzas direct our attention heavenward to hear the angels praise in one accord.  The psalmist sees two entities he urges to praise God.  Angels sing His praises.  The sun, moon and stars praise Him.  No matter how God’s enemies try to hide our worship from the world, they can’t stop these heavenly bodies from praising their creator.  They are a constant presence, they are not hidden.  “Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Ps 19:4).
The third stanza calls earthly creatures to worship and praise their creator.  Watch the flow of thought in this psalm.  Not only do animals praise God, but all of creation does.  The psalmist begins with creatures found in the ocean depths, moves up to speak about lightning and hail, then the mountains and hills, trees and animals of all kinds worship God.
But praises don’t stop there.  The heavens declare God’s glory.  The earth picks up the praises and finally the fourth and fifth stanzas climax with us, those made in God’s image.  Not only are those immediately around you praising God, but all His church as one body are shouting forth His praises.
Do you see this picture?  You are not alone in your small church each Sunday.  The sun joins in.  The clouds add their praise.  Trees add to the chorus and wind adds its melody.  Each church on your block joins together, all in its way praising God who deserves all praise.  And this praise will increase until the glory of God covers the earth, as the waters cover the sea.  What a privilege it is to add your voice to this choir of praise.  Sing psalm 148 loudly, God will hear you even if those mountains are getting a bit loud.  He will hear your praises.
From heav’n O praise the Lord;
Ye heights, His glory raise.
All angels praise accord;
Let all His host give praise.
Praise Him on high, Sun, moon and star,
Sun, moon and star, Ye heav’ns afair
And cloudy sky.
Yea, let them glorious make;
Jehovah’s matchless name;
For when the word He spake
They into being came.
And from that place where fixed they be,
Where fixed they be, by his decree
They cannot pass.
From earth O praise the Lord,
Ye deep and all below;
Wild winds that do His word,
Ye Clouds, fire, hail and snow;
Ye mountains high, Ye cedars tall,
Ye cedars tall, beasts great and small,
And birds that fly
Let all the people praise,
And kings of every land;
Let all their voices raise
Who judge and give command.
By young and old, by maid and youth,
By maid and youth, His name in truth
should be extolled.
Jehovah’s name be praised;
Above the earth and sky.
For He His saints has raised
And set their power on high.
Him praise accord, O Israel’s race,
O Israel’s race, near to His grace.
Praise ye the Lord.
Contributed by Mike Fenimore

Year C – Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Summary – Following on the heels of chapter 12’s final verse, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way,” chapter 13 unpacks the more excellent way.  Commonly called the “Love Chapter,” the translation above uses the word “love” 9 times in only 13 verses!  Three major sections of the chapter break up into (1) Action Without Love = Nothing, vss 1-3, (2) What Love Is, vss 4-7, and (3) Maturity in the Faith will be Accompanied by Greater Love, vss 8-13.  Of note, section (2) is often read at weddings.  Certainly, these characteristics apply to marital/spousal love; however Paul is really getting at love among Christians!  That really changes the perspective.  Finally, verse 8 comes with a classic debate: when do tongues cease (or do they at all, as Pentecostals would ask)?  Some say the “perfect” that comes is the Bible, meaning the gift of tongues has been silent for nearly millennia.  Others say, more rightly, that the “perfect” is the advent of Christ, or our going to Him.  When in the presence of the Savior, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge which all deal with the knowledge of God, will be swept away for our knowledge of God will be complete and full in the consummation of our salvation.  Nevertheless, as a Christian grows closer to Christ in maturity, the importance of the “revelatory” or “higher gifts” (12:31) shrinks to almost nothing.  Beyond a ministry of spectacular ministry of tongues, healing, and prophecy, a life of consistent and self-sacrificial and patient love is the “greatest” and “more excellent” way.

Insight – Jesus tells the story of two sons, perhaps named Yolev and Elias.  Their father, Abinadab, tells Yolev something like, “Go plow the field today, please.”  Yolev says to his dad, “Ah sorry, I’m going fishing in the creek with Shemuel later.  Not going to be able to plow.”  So their father goes to Elias and asks him the same thing.  “Sure Dad, I’ll do it this afternoon after I finish cleaning the horse barn.”  A couple hours go by and their father sees Elias sleeping on the couch with a copy of ESPN the magazine on his chest!  Abinadab goes out to the field to see what’s going on and finds Yolev, who was supposed to be fishing, happily plowing the field.  “What happened to fishing?” Abinadab asked.  “Well Dad, I decided that fishing could wait: helping you out was more important,” Yolev said.  So which son actually pleased his father?  Yolev did, even though he originally said he couldn’t do the work.  You see, saying “I’m sorry” if you don’t mean it is like going fishing without tying a hook on your string.  St. Paul tells us that we can do the greatest things, the nicest things, or believe things strongly, but if we don’t love those around us, those things are pointless!  God calls us to be people who really love one another, rather than just pretending to.

Child Catechism – What is patient and kind?  Love.

Discussion – What is the relationship between Paul’s analogy of the “child” and the role of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge in verses 8-13?  Discuss the difference between looking at someone in a mirror versus seeing them face to face.

Prayer – Our Loving God, we know what love is because your Son laid down His life for us.  We desire your love to be spread throughout the world through our service to those around us.  Destroy in us, we beseech you, the pride which causes us to do good things for our own glory, and replace it with a spirit of rejoicing in the Truth, so that great things would be done for your glory.  And prepare us for that moment when our dim knowledge of you is stripped away and we will be like you for we will see you as you are.  Through your Grace, Amen.

Year C – Fourth Sunday After Epiphany – Jeremiah 1:4-10

Jer.1:4-10 NRSV

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

Summary – Jeremiah prophesied from the time of King Josiah to the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC. God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet to tell Judah that she was going into exile into Babylon because of her sins. Jeremiah did not think he could speak the powerful words of a prophet because he was still a young man. A prophet is a person who can destroy and create worlds with God’s Word. He plucks up and pulls down, destroys and overthrows, builds and plants kingdoms and nations (Jer. 1:9-10). That is a very big job to do. No wonder Jeremiah thought he could not do it. But God gave Jeremiah the words to say, and promised to be with him.

Insight – Telling people bad news is never fun. Doctors have to tell people bad news, they tell people that they are sick or even worse, dying. But doctors also tell people how to get better. Jeremiah was much like a doctor in this way. He told Judah that they were so sick from their sins that they were going to die in exile in Babylon. But since Jeremiah was a good doctor, he also gave them good news. God was going to bring Judah back to life, by returning them back to their land (Ezek. 37)! God was rebuilding His kingdom. Judah’s story is much like our own. Because of our sins our spirits were dead in sin (Eph.2:1). But Jesus is the great doctor who brings us back from the dead, and builds us into a beautiful kingdom that will one day fill the whole earth (Matt. 13:31-33).

Catechism – What is a prophet? A prophet is a person who can destroy and create worlds with God’s Word.

Discussion – How is Jesus the greatest prophet of all? What does Jesus use to build His kingdom? How can we be like the prophets?

Prayer – Almighty God, you created Heaven and Earth with your powerful word. Please grant to your Church the wisdom to build your Kingdom though out the earth by the power of your word, the Bible. In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover