30 July 2009

The Dead Do Not Praise the Lord...

...neither do any who go down to silence. Psalm 115:17

And yet the Church joyfully sings in her Te Deum:

The glorious company of the Apostles praise You,
the goodly fellowship of the prophets praise You,
the noble army of martyrs praise You.

Which is right?

Is it just Old Testament vs. New Testament? I don't think so. I think the Psalmist meant that the mark of being DEAD (whether you are breathing or not is irrelevant to the state of being dead) is that the dead do not praise the Lord. The living do! The next verse of Psalm 115 is this:

But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!

The living, those alive in God by the work of His Spirit within, they manifest their "aliveness" in the fact that they praise God, that they extol and glorify Him forever. Which means that they go on praising Him whether breathing or not! (Cf. Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising, I am baptized into Christ, I'm a child of paradise. LSB 594:5)

This explains so much of the Church's life that the world doesn't get. We spend so much time just singing to God - psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. The vast majority of Western music historically was employed in just such a cause. To stand in the congregation and give voice to the praises of God is to have a foretaste of heaven and to realize that this is what we were created for; this is the very joy of life itself.

When we gather together and sing His praises; when we are alone (by which I mean away from the visible congregation - the invisible congregation and the angels are ever with us) and sing His praises on the tractor or in the car; when we sing around the table or piano at home and extol Him, the Blessed Trinity, we show that we are among the LIVING, of whom our Lord declared: "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."

The sad thing about the zombies, the walking dead, is that they live their lives apart from this glorious praise which is Church's joy and delight beyond words. We come home to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on our heads, and sorrow and sighing flee away (Is 35). But as we walk home together, we never stop calling to the walking dead as we invite them to leave their praiseless death and to find in singing the endless Glorias of the Church, her Alleluias and Kyries and Sanctuses, the very purpose of creation. "That we might BE to the praise of His glory." Indeed, we WILL bless the Lord both NOW and FOREVERMORE...with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.

Alleluia! Let praises ring!
Unto the Triune God we sing;
Blest be His name forever!
With angel hosts let us adore
And sing His praises evermore
For all His grace and favor!
Singing, ringing:
Holy, holy, God is holy;
Spread the story
Of our God, the Lord of glory! (LSB 822:4)


Larry Everett said...

Thanks Pastor for this excellent post.I'm a long time 'lurker' on your blog and I check it daily--and sometimes more.

I very much enjoy your blog, especially your theological postings.It is a way for me to grow in the faith. (I'm 72 and a life long LCMS Lutheran, but so much to learn!) Although we are blessed w/two confessional/liturgical/teaching pastors, it is good to learn from other likeminded pastors.

I do appreciate your leading me to Dr. Kleinig's book 'Grace upon Grace' and Dr. Giertz devotional book, 'To Live with Christ.' They are both so refreshing and inspiring.

Keep up the your good work. I hope to me you someday--this side of heaven!

BTW-I haven't read anything this summer from you about your reel lawnmower. Is it still mowing?pyrow

William Weedon said...

Thanks, Larry, for delurking, and for the words of encouragement.

Sad news on the mower. It didn't work well at all this year. I wanted to get it into the mower shop to have it examined (it's tugging rather than cutting the grass), but I've been too busy running all summer. Truth is, I wouldn't have had much time to enjoy it this year anyway. My faithful friend Steve has been cutting all the grass and my lawn included, for which I am very grateful. I hope that maybe over vacation I can figure out what gives with the reel mower and get back to enjoying the "clickety, clickety, click"!

Dennis Peskey said...

Pastor Weedon,
The 'spirit' of your reel mower may be in need of refreshment. For this, I refer to Heb 4:12 - just as God's Word can be compared as 'sharper than a two-edged sword' so must your mower be to complete it's mission. In your vocation as chief lawn custodian, I would advise sharpening the blades to restore your mower to new life.

Donna said...

I have always loved and been deeply moved by this preface to the Sanctus:

Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee...

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob is not the God of the dead, but the God of the Living. John is all over this idea - it's amazing to sit and ponder and realize that we are connected to something so much bigger than just ourselves.

Kiran said...

Thank you. I agree with you on the point of this. I think the "death" spoken of is the death of "mortal" sin, but yes, the verse is, I think inversely, confirmation of the communion of saints.