Psalm 147
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
March 10, 2024

In his book Good Morning Merry Sunshine, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene chronicled his daughter’s first year of life. Once she learned to crawl and to pull herself upright with the support of a piece of furniture, she developed a favorite pastime. She’d crawl over to her parents’ bed, pull herself up by it, and peer over the edge of it. Bob would be in bed reading a book when he’d look up – and there would be Amanda’s eyes just over the bed’s edge staring at him. “Apparently,” Bob wrote, “I’d become one of the objects that fascinated her…It felt strange…I didn’t know how to react. All I could figure out was that she liked the idea of…looking at me. She didn’t expect anything in return. So I’d return her gaze; and, in a few minutes, she’d decide to go back to the living room – and off she’d crawl.”

Amanda was enjoying the simple pleasure of looking at someone you love. It’s the delight we should enjoy every Sunday when we gather to worship God and every moment in the week we snatch to take in the sight of Him, to bask in the wonder of His just being there.

It seems to me that not only does our heart lead our eyes but also our eyes lead our heart. In fact, our whole being wants to follow our eyes. Think how hard it is, while driving a car, not to steer toward an off-road object that’s caught your eye. So, if we lift up our eyes to take in the sight of God, we lift up our hearts to Him as well. The direction of our gaze sets the direction of our life.

Today’s Psalm is all about lifting our eyes and hearts to God in praise and service. It begins and ends with a command to “praise the Lord”, and in between it repeats the command, one way or another, three more times.

Its first verse sums up the psalm’s overall theme. It exclaims, “How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.” There you have both the objective reason and the subjective reason for praising God. God, in the objective reality of His grace, is worthy of it. He deserves our honoring Him. Praise is “fitting” or appropriate. It is also, in its subjective reality, a joyful blessing that does us “good”. For it consummates our delight in God. When we do right by God in our service, we then do ourselves a favor and fulfill our pleasure in Him.

This Psalm points out a few of the many reasons to sing God’s praises: God builds up the downtrodden and casts the wicked to the ground; gives to those who listen to Him wise statutes and ordinances; blesses the children within them and grants peace within their borders; and governs nature, determining the number of the stars and giving each its name, making the rain fall and the winds blow so the grass will grow on the hills and the young ravens will have their food when they cry. All these and countless other acts of grace show the Lord to be a great and praiseworthy God whose power is “abundant” and whose understanding is “beyond measure”.

But when we praise God, we don’t just do our duty to Him; we also do ourselves a favor. For putting His greatness at the forefront of our minds settles our souls in serenity and fills them with joy. We grow content and calm in the awareness that this Almighty God has the whole world in His hand.

Now, to stay in this state of happy blessedness, we need to keep our eyes fixed on God.

Nita Landis tells how, when her daughter Katie was still in diapers, she’d fret about falling off the changing table. Little Katie would constantly turn her head to keep an eye on the edge and protest, “I fallin’, Mama!” Nita would tell her she was safe, but her words didn’t calm Katie. Finally, Nita told her, “Don’t look at the edge. Look at Mama!” And as soon as Katie locked her eyes on her mother, she settled down and grew peaceful. Likewise, when we feel on the edge of disaster, we’re wise to relocate our fixed gaze from what threatens us to whom protects us. Then, though the danger remains, we settle down and grow peaceful.

Lifted eyes lead to lifted hearts!

Finally, there is this: When we bless God’s name in service, we bless God Himself. God beams with an ear-to-ear smile when He sees us put our faith into practice and serve Him with grateful love. That’s why verse 11 of this psalm exclaims, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” If we devote ourselves to gratefully honoring and serving God, we become such a joy to Him He can’t keep His eyes off of us or stop them from dancing with delight at the very sight of us – as was the case with the dad of a friend of the East LA priest, Father Greg Boyle.

In his book Tattoos of the Heart, Father Boyle writes, “[Bill Cain] took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer. His father had become a frail man, dependent on Bill to do everything for him. Though physically Bill’s father was not what he had been and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively. In the role reversal common to adult children who care for dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood.

“Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Exhausted from the day’s care and work, Bill would plead with his dad, “Look, here’s the idea. I read to you. You fall asleep.” Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes. But this wouldn’t last long. Soon enough, Bill’s father would pop one eye open and smile at his son. Bill would catch him and whine, “Come on, Dad!” The father would, again, oblige, until he couldn’t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his beloved son. This went on and on, every night week after week. After his father’s death, Bill said that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid.”

Is that not how it is with our Father in Heaven?

As we praise and serve Him, we so please Him He can’t get enough of us. He delights in the sight of His dear kids whom He adores.

Why, He’s so tickled with us that He’s made arrangements for us to lift up our eyes and our hearts to each other for eternity! Let us pray.

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