“Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6 (NRSV)
It was a cardboard crown spray-painted gold with spaces for “jewels” to be added as a reward for memorizing scripture verses in kindergarten. Mrs. Gettys and Mrs. Howell were our teachers at Second Presbyterian Church’s Kindergarten in Union, South Carolina. As we committed to memory certain Bible verses or Psalms we were given five-pointed foil stars with glue on the back to affix to our crowns. On that gold crown there were ruby red, emerald green, sapphire blue, and sparkling diamond (silver) stars. One of the verses we memorized was John 3:16, I also remember that we learned Psalms 23, 100 and 150 and I suppose that is where and when I first became acquainted with Psalm 150.
Shifting forward ten years, I was selected as a tenor from Thomasville Senior High School Chorus to be part of the North Carolina All State Festival Chorus. That was the first of four such events I attended and in which I participated during my high school years. Fortunately, this annual event was held in Greensboro, which is only 25 miles from Thomasville. That first year we practiced a number of choral anthems as opposed to a major choral work and one of the anthems was Howard Hanson’s arrangement of Psalm 150. It is an impressive work with challenging piano accompaniment that starts out loud and builds as more instruments are added. The anthem concludes “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” ending with whispered “Alleluias” that suggest the worshipers and musicians discover themselves in God’s presence and the exuberant praise gives way to awe-filled reverence in the sanctuary That was my re-acquaintance with Psalm 150 as 500 singers joined in this marvelous anthem of praise to God, which was the closing selection of the next night’s concert.
As many of you may know, I love the Psalms and Psalm 150 is numbered among my top ten and perhaps top five favorite psalms. I love the call to human beings to praise the Lord in God’s sanctuary. I love the Bolero affect whereby more and more instruments are added to the orchestra as the praise of the Lord is played again and again. Once the “full” orchestra is in place and playing, it is still not enough so the Psalmist calls for all living creatures to lend their voices in the song of praise to God. Psalm 150 is a great way to conclude the Psalter. “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”
O Lord, we do praise You for Your mighty acts. We praise You for Your surpassing greatness. No chorus, dancers or orchestra can succeed in praising You as we ought so it is fitting that we should invite all living creatures … all that has breath to join in praising You. Alleluia! Amen!