Praise and the Psalms:
A Politics of Glad Abandonment
PRAISE IS an odd, amorphous theme. Among other things, it puts us at odds with a technically oriented world, and it plunges us promptly into an ecumenical matrix. In a previous foray on this topic, I spoke of praise to Anglicans (rather like coals to Newcastle) when I was invited to preach at the ordination of Roger White as the bishop in Milwaukee. Of course, "praise" is an Anglican theme, for who has done it better, or longer? In the great catechism of Reformed faith, the Westminster Catechism, the first question is, "What is the chief concern of human persons?" The answer is, "The chief human concern is to glorify God and enjoy God forever." Thus I thought I would do a little Reformed theology in Milwaukee for the sake of Anglicans and remind them that the chief purpose of their life was praise to God. When I had finished my Reformed statement on praise to Anglicans, that great Roman Catholic bishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, said to me, "Thanks, that was splendid Benedictine theology." So whether Anglican, Reformed, Benedictine, or genuinely ecumenical out beyond our tight, limiting historical traditions, there are others doing praise, too, and doing it well.
The discussion that follows is in three parts, a theoretical statement, an exegetical statement, and a practical statement. My urging is a modest one: that serious parishes and congregations must invest greatly and intentionally as communities of praise, and, indeed, that they have no more important work to do.