Whenever I read Psalm 117, I can’t help but think back to South Mountain Elementary School, where I attended kindergarten through 6th grade. From Miss Ford to Mrs. Carnegie! A lovely school, a few blocks from home. Nearby, with safe streets we would cross to get there. Close enough to come home each day for lunch.
As we started the school day, we had the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, said the Lord’s Prayer, and then one of us read a psalm in front of the entire class. Scary stuff to a shy little boy like me. Now, this was public school, long before our upper court removed prayer and Bible reading from the classroom. Each of us got to choose whatever psalm we wanted to read. As my day approached, I could feel the tightness in my chest, along with nausea in my stomach. Can you guess which psalm all of us chose every time? Not Psalm 119 for sure! Yes, you’re right! The shortest one–Psalm 117!
What’s interesting to me is how little impact the exercise of prayer and Bible reading had on me in public school. 95% of my classmates were Jewish. I was the ‘token Christian’, as they like to remind me at class reunions! But, I wasn’t really a Christian in those days. I knew next to nothing about God, Jesus or the Bible(except for Psalm 117!). Hadn’t heard that I needed His gift of salvation. What was that? No idea. In the mainline church which I attended, we never talked about politics, sex… or religion. Oy Vey! What I did know was that I wasn’t Jewish. Pretty pathetic! All changed when I heard a clear Gospel message on the radio one Sunday evening in my small upstairs bedroom.
Having those ‘traditions’ of public prayer and Bible reading made no difference to me. Hearing the Gospel claims did. Repeating words or performing rituals did not ‘cut the mustard’. Committing our lives to Jesus Christ counts for everything. Could never be legislated by a secular board of education or political body. Only the Holy Spirit can transform a life. Traditions come up short.
I pause today to gaze deeper into this marvelously concise praise to our God found in the Bible. Psalm 117! Less than 30 words. None of them wasted. All packed… with meaning. Like bookends that keep all the books on your shelf from collapsing. ‘Praise the Lord’, begins and ends this tiny masterpiece. Starting and ending with praise.
Get the hint? Like starting and ending each of our days…’Praise the Lord’. Starting and ending a project…’Praise the Lord’. Whatever. Whenever. Simply praise Him. Father, Son, Holy Spirit…all praises, always!
Prayer: Lord, we do praise you today, both morning and night. In Jesus’ name. Amen.