True praise isn't always easy.
Music has a unique power in our lives. There are those songs that remind us of a romance, those songs that we played over and over in a rough patch in our lives, and those songs that always bring a smile to our faces and make us want to dance. Music has a similar power in our faith lives too. There are those songs that always make us cry or remember a loved one, those songs that fill us with joy at the remembrance of a special connection to God on a retreat or revival, and those songs whose words capture what we cannot capture better with hours of trying. Music helps us connect to the awesome power of God and to express the full range of the emotional journal of walking with God.
Cecilia, who we honor today, reveled in singing passionately the praises of God. Known as the patron saint of singer, organ builders, musicians and poets, Cecilia is venerated as a martyr. Of noble birth, Cecilia was betrothed to a pagan, who she eventually converted by her witness – along with his brother. But because of their conversion and her role with them, all three were eventually martyred around 230 during a time of Roman persecution of Christians. Cecilia’s life has inspired countless artists and composers over the centuries.
Though we may turn to spiritual music for different seasons of our lives, what Cecilia invites us into today is a passion for praise. Now I know what you may be thinking – that I am asking you to be some constant ray of sunshine who continually pretends everything is ok. To be honest I know some people who are like that and I do not get it. How can anyone be that happy all the time? Does God really want us to stuff our true emotions, pain, and hurt, and pretend all is well?
That is not what a passion for praise is really about. The psalm we all read today is full of praise: “Praise God in his holy temple … praise him for his mighty acts … praise him with lyre and harp … with resounding cymbals.” In these six short verses, we are told to praise God 11 times. I think what the psalmist gets and what Cecilia got is that praise is the vehicle that gets us through pain to God. Almost like making yourself smile until the smile becomes real, when we praise God, even if we do not feel like praising, eventually our praise overwhelms us, and we cannot help but be lead closer to joy. Our invitation today is to a life of praise – annoying, hard, gentle, forgiving, joyful, real praise. Amen.