Christ Lutheran Church
May 3, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Loud Clashing Cymbals
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise him in the heavenly vault of his power!
Praise him for his mighty deeds,
Praise him as is fitting his excellent greatness!
Praise him with blasting trumpets,
Praise him with harp and lyre.
Praise him with tambourine and dance,
Praise him with strings and pipes.
Praise him with crashing cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath Praise the LORD,
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150)
Beloved in Christ! Why such exuberance? What was King David thinking when he spoke in such glowing and over-flowing terms of praise about the Lord his God? What was he thinking?
The answers are all here in the 150th Psalm, and in the other readings that our God so graciously bestows upon us today.
We know that sometimes people will praise others to be polite; or to gain some favor. But faint praise extols no mighty deeds, employs no blasting trumpets or clashing cymbals.
But King David’s praise of the LORD did. Not only in his own heart as if this were a personal devotion. But in real time by the multitude of musicians, and choirs that he commissioned to make glorious music to the LORD day and night – in imitation of the adoration that takes place in the vaults of heaven without ceasing.
Worship that we access today in God’s earthly temple in Divine Service; but praise that we will soon join in his heavenly temple where we, too, will sing magnificent praise to the Lord our God. He who IS love, and who sent his One and Only Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Notice that David’s praise is neither faint nor hollow nor manipulative but based on divine knowledge, given by revelation, and believed by Spirit-born faith. David had the same revelation that St. John writes in today’s epistle, namely that: “God is love, and that he gave his one and only Son into the world that we might live by him!”. So that the whole dead world might have life by faith in Christ, his cross and resurrection.
This is the same knowledge that is made manifest to us in God’s holy house; and so we assemble here each Lord’s Day to offer him our prayer, praise and thanksgiving, so that the saying comes true: “heaven and earth are full of thy glory.”
We do not assemble here each Sunday because it is social convention!
Indeed, our gathering here, like the Lord himself, is “despised and rejected of men.” It is, without doubt, the most daring act of counter-cultural behavior known among men today.
Back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Counter-cultural meant sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, shocking modes of dress, rebarbative hair styles, women dressing like men, and men prancing about like women.
Today those are all normalized.
And where tattoos and body piercings were once a sign of “in your face” to traditional western Christian culture, today the it is the, inkless, bling-less body is the enemy of culture.
And so to be sure the thing we are doing here is as counter-cultural as it gets; but don’t let that shock you.
It only means that the genuine praise that we offer God, and the faith that we proclaim, has reverted to its rightful status in the world – as something strange, unwelcome and unintelligible to those who are baptized into the culture of the world. St. John says: those who are of the world listen when the world speaks because they are of the world.”
But we hear a different voice. The voice of our Good Shepherd, and that is the voice we follow.
Beloved! Fellow Branches who live by the nourishment of the Vine! The praise of the One, True God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, will win you no friends, nor influence any people.
But like the Ethiopian eunuch it will send you on your way through this life rejoicing! Rejoicing that Christ our “suffering servant” bore the punishment due to us for our black and blue sins; and that by his death we have abundant and everlasting life.
These are the “mighty deeds” and “excellent greatness” that cause Psalmists then, and Psalmists today to praise our God with high delight as is “truly meet right and salutary”.
Though we can never worship our dear Father as we ought, we worship him as we are able. And it is enough, because while our praise in and of itself can never be adequate; remember that the crucified, resurrected and ascended Christ is our true Liturgist.
He is the one who worships the Father in Spirit and Truth, but he never does it alone! Never without us, his Bride the Church but only with her! And thus the vaults of heaven resound with Right Praise (orthodoxy) coming from redeemed earth, now reconciled to heaven, by the cross and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Though every line of divinely inspired Scripture is of priceless worth, so that even one little word from God can fell the devil, there is one line from today’s Psalm that deserves special comment:
Praise him with crashing cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals.
A long time ago, before “dot met com” Christian worship entered into holy wedlock with the church organ which, in one glorious instrument, combines the entire array of musical splendor named in our Psalm. The two, music and worship, have become one flesh; and so what God has joined together let not wild-eyed liturgical scribblers put asunder!
But by God’s copious blessing Christ Lutheran Church has taken things to another level with the zimbelstern. The zimbelstern is that set of bells that sits atop the organ that are played during the sanctus and on doxological verses of hymns.
And, too, with the recent addition of the bells we ring at the elevation, which simulate the cymbals of our Psalm today so that we, like King David and his army of musicians can:
Praise Christ with cashing cymbals;
Praise Christ with loud clashing cymbals.
And if ever there is a time to praise our Savior in the manner that the 150th Psalm teaches; it is at the elevation of the Bread and Wine; which by blessed consecration are now the Flesh and Blood of Christ, given for us Christians to eat and drink, for the remission of our sins, for life and salvation, and for the healing of the nations!
In that act of the elevation we are calling attention to this miracle of consecration. But we are also liturgically offering, or holding up before our God the propitiation which he himself gave us.
By this elevation and the “clashing of cymbals” the church liturgically proclaims that she believes and receives and over-flows with thanksgiving to God for all that he gives us in Christ, who is the True Vine:
The cancellation of all of our faults, so that God remembers them no more!
The purging away of all of our wrongs, our guilt, our shame, and our hatred of God and hatred of our fellow man.
That is what we should see at the elevation, as we praise him with “crashing cymbals, and loud clashing cymbals.”
But let us be reminded today, also, of St. Paul’s word that: if we possess all knowledge, and the faith to move mountains, but have no love: then we are but a clanging cymbal and a noisy gong – and there is nothing worse than that!
And though we have all been there, now we are there because we know where hope and salvation are found: In the cleansing Word that Jesus speaks to us.
He is the Vine, and we are the Branches. We live in him, and grow out of him. But when we start to wither the Vinedresser does not cut us off and throw us in the fire. But he prunes us. Trim us back. Which we often need. But only so that we can start fresh. Start anew. And produce even sweeter and fatter fruits of love.
And so nothing is more fitting for Christian worship than to do what today’s Psalm enjoins upon all who have breath:
To praise the Lord “with clashing cymbals, and loud crashing cymbals” to celebrate his love for us in Christ; and our love for all men in him. Amen.