This week, I thought a lot about singing our praises to God. I have a coworker who everyday says a prayer of thanksgiving just because she woke up and was able to go to work. This past Thursday was Ascension Day, in the Christian calendar this is the day when Christ ascended into the heavens leaving the disciples for the first time since the resurrection. Today, we speak of this glory, joy and praise that those who witnessed it felt. Today, we also speak of how we still give praise to the glory of God in our lives.
So often in church sermons we focus on how to live better lives, how to be better Christians and how to enact the will of God in the world. Very little time is actually spent on praising God, really truly praising him and not just on Sundays when we gather together in church. Singing your song of praise, this is what we will spend time on today. Have you ever had one of those days that just couldn’t get any better? You know that type of day that you just know was formed by the hand of God? I hope all of you have. I know that I have had plenty throughout my life and I wait expectantly for those days to continue to come.
Often times these days might coincide with great milestones in life and other times they seem to come just as a nice surprise. For me the unexpected days are what fill me with utter joy and praise. A few years ago, when I had been so sick with Lyme disease, I was exhausted all the time and really looked and felt terrible. The affects of this lasted for weeks and even months in my recovery. One week, I had been feeling pretty bad about myself and really down because my recovery process. It kept getting set back and my immune system was pretty much shot, so I was getting sick like every other week, I wasn’t feeling joy and gladness. And I certainly wasn’t looking to give praise to God for the experiences that I was struggling with.
I will be honest. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. But then one day I felt as if my prayers were answered and things began to look up for me. It was a Saturday, I believe, I sat up in bed that morning and something was different. The birds were singing, the sunlight was brightening the room and all of a sudden I realized that I had no joint pain. I wasn’t feeling tired or exhausted. I looked in the mirror and I had some color back and I wasn’t feeling worn down. I felt normal.
I felt like myself. I am sure most of you know how wonderful that feels when you’ve been ill for some time and you first recover. I got up that day and I made some breakfast. I went grocery shopping and I could clean the house in a reasonable amount of time. It might sound silly but I felt the most wonderful sense of joy and I sang all day long as I went about my chores. It was possibly the first time, and probably the last time, that I have ever felt joy and praise in my heart while doing household chores.
I gave praise. I remember stopping everything and just giving praise in prayer and song for the privilege to be healthy once more. Praise. Do you do it? Do you pray or find some way to give thanks to God for the wonders you experience? For most people, and I fall into this habit myself, when everything is good and happy, when we feel good and everyone is healthy, we tend to forget about God. We forget to praise God for the day, the people, and our health. Just as God is with us, listening to our prayers for supplication when we are suffering, scared and lost in the world. God is also there providing for our lives. He is there guiding us and creating those days that seem to really awaken something vibrant new and awesome in ourselves.
Today, we read the ascension scriptures. We read as Jesus says his last set of goodbyes; his words of wisdom for his friends and the awesome event of him ascending into the heavens to take his spot at the right hand of the Lord. This is an event, an experience that would have been unexpected by those who witnessed it because in all of history only two people ascended into the heavens: Elijah and Jesus. It was a life changing experience for those early disciples giving them the confidence and the courage to continue on in the work that Christ had left for them. With what they witnessed, they had the joy of the risen Savior, the champion of the people as their conviction. With joy and praise in their hearts, they could now face the world with their life giving message and face the challenges that were ahead of them with courage.
With joy in our hearts and praise upon our lips, with the knowledge of Christ as our salvation, we too are being given that same conviction we need to make a difference in our world. We may have our struggles. We may have those days when we really struggle to find God’s hand in our lives, but remember to cherish and praise God for those times in life, when we can’t help but feel the blessings of the Lord with each day. Remember that those days are gifts to us, and we should cherish those days and let them carry us through all the challenges of this life. Our challenge is to not allow for our struggles to dictate to us our happiness and our success living into the message of God. We should remember the triumph of the ascension and the peaceful satisfaction of God’s hand upon our lives and use them to build us up and make us whole. We are challenged to find one thing each day for which to give praise to God’s Holy name.
(based on Acts 1: 1-11)