Psalm 147; Mark 1:29-39

February 4, 2024

 

Psalm 147

1 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious,

and a song of praise is fitting. 2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

3 He heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds. 

4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 

5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 

6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.

8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth,

   makes grass grow on the hills.

9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.

10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; 

11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!

13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.

14 He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.

15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.

16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. 

17 He hurls down hail like crumbs—who can stand before his cold?

18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. 

20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.

Praise the Lord!

 

Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

 

That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. 

 

How good it is to sing praises to our God, for God is gracious and a song of praise is fitting. 

 

How good it is to spend time with our family and our friends.

How good it is to spend time in nature, appreciating the wonder and beauty of the earth.

How good it is to take good care of one’s own body, by eating healthy food 

    and enjoying exhilarating exercise. 

How good it is to spend time in meaningful work, work that serves a purpose, 

  work that results is satisfying accomplishment. 

How good it is to read a great book that you cannot put down or to watch an entertaining television series. 

How good it is to explore and travel and see new places. 

How good it is to laugh and play and enjoy the simple pleasures of daily human living. 

And yes, how good it is to sing praises to our God, for God is gracious and a song of praise is fitting. 

 

We sing praise to God, because of who God is and because of what God does. 

We are reminded in the psalms that God is good. God is gracious. God hears and cares and responds. 

God is powerful. God is sensitive to the needs of the people. 

God is involved; God knows. The Great I Am is tender, even. 

We learn these theological concepts both from lived experience and from the scriptures. 

Notice the action words attributed to God in this psalm – 

 God builds up, gathers, binds up, heals, determines, lifts up,

  prepares, covers, gives, takes pleasure. 

God strengthens, blesses, grants peace, sends, gives, scatters, makes, melts, declares. 

 

And notice the objects of God’s actions – 

   the outcasts, the broken-hearted, the downtrodden, the children. 

 If we are among those who have been outcast or broken-hearted or downtrodden 

   or if we have known what it is like to be dependent, like children, then the psalms give us hope. 

   We sing praise to a God who sees our human need and cares and responds. 

If we are among those who currently have any measure of resources or good health or stability,

    then the psalms give us direction, give us a calling. 

  The psalms encourage us to see as God sees and to act as God acts on behalf of those in need. 

 

When one of our Bible study members heard the list of action words on Wednesday,

  she said that she immediately thought of Jesus. This list sounds like Jesus’ ministry, she said. 

 Indeed.  The psalms, in one sense, give a foreshadowing of what we read in the gospels. 

 In our reading from the Gospel of Mark for today, Jesus, who embodied Gods’ word, 

  came to the downtrodden of Capernaum. He lifted up Peter’s mother-in-law who was ill. 

   He healed many of their diseases. He cast out many evil spirits. 

    He proclaimed God’s word to all.

And then he told his disciples that we must go and do likewise in all the neighboring villages.

 

And ever since the incarnation, ever since the embodiment of God’s Word in Galilee,

  we have been singing praises to God’s Son, for in Jesus of Nazareth, 

    God was truly gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. 

     Jesus came to see as God sees and to do as God does. 

      He came to care, to heal, to gather, to lift up, to build up, to reconcile, to bless, to make all things new. 

 

As you are well aware, there are many in our community who are facing the challenges of depression,  

   especially during the long winter months.

  Many are experiencing the depths of loneliness during these longest nights of the year.

   Many are finding themselves ill – in body or in mind or in spirit. 

As you are well aware, there are many around the world who are experiencing the hell of warfare,

   and the desperation of displacement, and the uncertainty of what the coming months will bring. 

The psalms remind us that God sees, God cares, God will act on behalf of those in need.

And the stories of Jesus remind us that when God showed up “in the flesh”, 

   Jesus confirmed God’s love for all. Jesus broke down barriers of separation. 

      Jesus directed us to the friendless and those in need. 

      Jesus gave his life so that we might learn to live in peace. 

 

When we sing praise to God for who God is and what God has done, 

  we celebrate the goodness of God and we rediscover hopefulness for humanity. 

  When we offer songs of praise, we find our spirits lifted and any darkness melting away. 

   When we sing praise to God, we give re-extend the call to care for others. 

 

Could some of the dis-ease in our community be addressed by singing songs of praise? 

 Could praise become an antidote for lesser forms of depression? 

   Could singing praise with others serve as remedy for loneliness?

    Praise, and the resultant actions that praise elicits, just may well reveal itself as “preventative medicine” 

      for mental and physical and spiritual illnesses of various forms.

 

Every human being will face challenges in this life. 

  Every human being will find themselves at some point in despair or confusion or grief. 

   Every human being will find themselves, at some juncture, at the end of their rope,

     or in a deep pit, and will discover that undeniable need for help and hope. 

As we gather each Sunday and offer praise to God, we engender hope for all. 

As we gather each Sunday and sing praise to God, we are lifted above our every darkness 

      and discover again the light and peace of God’s presence.

 As we sing praise to God, we are reminded that, regardless of our station in life,  

       we all have something to offer unto God and something to share with our neighbor.  

  As we gather to offer praise, and then gather at the Table for communion, 

     we become united in a sacred bond that cannot be broken. 

 

Friends, this is the day the Lord has made…let us rejoice and be glad in it!

   How good it is to sing praises to our God, for God is gracious and a song of praise is fitting.   

      Praise the Lord…the Lord’s name be praised!  Amen. 

Rev. Dr. Todd Speed – Decatur Presbyterian Church – Decatur, Georgia