Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
This is the last psalm in the book of psalms.
It seems clear to me this Psalm was sung in corporate worship. It expresses a corporate experience of worship, celebration and praise. When I read the Hebrew scriptures looking for signs of what worship was like for the Israelites -- I keep running into the instructions of Leviticus about separating the fat from the organ meat before its burnt on the altar. In the Christian scriptures I see well-ordered synagogue worship looking for all the world like a classroom studying the ancient scrolls together.
But here. Here we hear calls to worship:
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Sounds strangely like a modern day Pentecostal praise service.
What I run up against here -- and I'm particularly mindful of it just coming out from under the Christmas celebrations of church and family -- is that for the biblical peoples and for maybe all cultures -- there are matter which seem like emotions, private, and personal experiences which are in fact treated like obligations and reinforced with coercive practices.
For scripture -- the two which fall into this category are love and joy. Scripture over and over again tells us, yea -- commands us -- to love and to rejoice and be glad. Happiness isn't a feeling isn't an experience that happens to us -- it is an obligation towards El Shaddai, God Almighty.
As a Christian I feel a certain obligation to take such things seriously -- this is not because the Bible is the wholly infallible Word of God but rather because millennia of faithful worship and witness affirms it. And this call to praise and worship takes the imperative case. It makes certain claims on me. And while I am free to accept or reject. There remains a claim to authority here.
But I'm more of an introverted type. I'm more drawn to study and meditation than to dancing around with tambourines. I have some choices.
I refuse to participate -- say 'no' to this whole project. I can participate (as quietly as I'm allowed to) while keeping my cognitive distance (my usual choice). I can lose myself in the celebration (something I find VERY difficult to do).
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
I deeper challenge than it appears on the surface. With Augustine I say Yes, Lord. But not yet.