Friday, July 24, 2009

Lighters and Cell Phones

Hallelujah . . . (Psalm 150:1).

It used to be cigarette lighters. Back when “The Omni” was still the primary concert venue in Atlanta that’s how people called for an encore. Little flames appeared all over the auditorium and the crowd would be going nuts, and once enough little flames popped up and the volume was sustained long enough, the band would come back for an encore.

I always felt left out of that moment. I never had a cigarette lighter. My personal habits were such that a lighter was not something I just happened to have in my pocket. Stopping to get one just for a concert never occurred to me, so I just stood there and made noise while others speckled the blackness with their little lights.

But today things are a little different. The light of choice at the end of a concert is a cell phone, and that I have. While the source of light has changed the experience is still the same. Lots of noise, a galaxy of cellular light spread across the darkness – and then the encore.

The final five Psalms are an on-your-feet celebration. The entire Psalter ends with succession of five exuberant “Hallelujah” Psalms, five different ways of saying “Praise the Lord.” When we pray these Psalms we’re standing up, holding our cell phones high, voicing light that shatters darkness with the Praise of God. We’re calling for an encore; we’re yearning for more of the music of heaven and the works that God accomplishes day after day.

Praise is not only the end of the Psalms. Praise is the end of all things. This is where everything is headed. And that includes you and me. We see a picture of it whenever we sing the old hymn “Amazing Grace.” The hymn ends with a picture of eternal praise, as fresh after ten thousand years as if it had just begun five minutes ago. All things end in praise. This is what we were made to do; it what “everything that has breath” was made to do.

Borrowing words from a familiar friend, we are helped by this explanation:

This crafted conclusion for the Psalms tells us that our prayers are going to end in praise, but that it is also going to take a while. Don’t rush it. It may take years, decades even, before certain prayers arrive at the “hallelujahs” . . . Not every prayer is capped off with praise. In fact most prayers, if the Psalter is true guide, are not. But prayer, a praying life, finally becomes praise. Prayer is always reaching toward praise and will finally arrive there. If we persist in prayer, laugh and cry, doubt and believe, struggle and dance and then struggle again, we will surely end up at Psalm 150, on our feet, applauding “Encore! Encore!” (Eugene H. Peterson, Answering God, p. 127).

This Sunday the Tour de France ends in Paris. The final stage is an exuberant triumphant ride into the city, crowds lining the streets. If the number one spot is not being contested, you’ll see some of the riders sipping champagne as they pedal the closing kilometers. It’s a party on the streets. It’s even a party on wheels.

It is fitting that today we conclude the Tour de Psalms. We come to the final reflection and give our attention to a single word: “Hallelujah.” The very last Psalm, Psalm 150, begins and ends with this word. And this word is where our lives are headed. This is the trajectory, the destination, of the ride of your life.

It may take a while to reach that destination. This ride is a long one. But there’s no doubt as to where we’re headed. You can begin today. Even in a dark place you can raise your cell phone. Break open the champagne if you wish. But get on your feet and find a way to give God praise.


Prayer: Psalm 150
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

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