As we do every year for Lent, we gave up the infamous "A" word in worship. No, not that other "a" word. The one that we sing almost every Sunday at the proclamation of the Gospel. The one that, borrowed from the Hebrew, simply means, "Praise God".
We've set aside this beautiful and ancient word in the tradition of preparing ourselves for the big celebration coming up in April, the way one might prepare for a big event, not by rehearsing and training up to the last moment, but by setting aside the activity and focusing their hearts and minds on the victory to come.
But just because we've set aside this beautiful word doesn't mean that suddenly we won't have any "Praise God" moments. When my nephew Hunter turned 3 months old, I rightly got my happy dance feet going in praise. So how do we celebrate when we've put aside that special "A" word and aren't saying praise God in the words of faith?
To help us prepare for Easter, to help us gather all our praises so that on the day when the biggest praise happens, we've brought with us every reason to praise we can find, I've invited the congregation to write down their praises on these handy-dandy "Praise God" coloring pages. If you have a praise, fill one of these out and bring them with you to worship. We'll use them when Easter comes to make our praises to God bigger and better than ever.
What do you have to praise God for? Hopefully a lot. Any blessing is worthy of praise (and Job would tell you even on the least blessed days there are still reasons to praise God). I'd like to share with you one of the praises I have right now...
Back in February, sisters and brothers in Christ visited our congregation from St. Paul's, Quakertown, a congregation that had to close their doors in January. As part of their visit, Trinity prepared to share with them the joys and blessings of our ministry. The week before their visit, I was worried. I had to be away at a confirmation retreat, and it felt like little to nothing was moving in preparation for their visit. I did not desire to tell them everything myself, partly because they'd already have heard me leading the past hour of worship and partly because Trinity is so much more than the pastor.
So I left things in the hands of the congregation and hoped and prayed. When St. Paul's came, I was swept off my feet in joy. Member after member of the congregation came up to speak about this or that ministry. You shared your love and joy and passion for all the aspects of this congregation for 10 then 20 and even 30 full minutes. Other than a brief mention of confirmation, I didn't have to say anything the entire time. I simply had the privilege of marveling at the ownership and love you shared with the people of St. Paul's. It was beautiful. Happy dances for everyone!
If you want to know a moment that made me jump up and down and praise God, it was that. That's a praise I will carry with me to Easter to share at our celebration of our biggest and most important praise, the Good News of Jesus Christ.