It is Sunday and the church is full to the brim. Neatly dressed children huddle together and a tired head finds comfort in a neighbour’s lap. Red roses cascade from the ceiling in some places and cerulean paper rings tumble down in others. It has taken arduous hours of work to adorn the church in preparation for the Ladies’ Anniversary Service. The striking pieces of tapestry descending at the sides are the stained glass windows of the sanctuary, the loveliest of presentations for the house of the King. Wedged between hand crafted fans and flowers, a small white canvas reads: “Joyeux Anniversaire a Groupe Dames les benis de Dieu”. It is their desire that God blesses and it is our prayer that God blesses this entire nation. While we seek the provision of our Father, it is also essential that we also bless Him not only by our mouths, but by our lives.
Aside from the potent message preached by our team leader, almost everything is sung and spoken in creole. This should present an uncomfortable challenge for an English speaking team, yet the ambiance of the melodies ascending, generates a universal tongue of praise and rejoicing. Just as countries possess anthems, so Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons: Bless the Lord, rings as an anthem in Lubin. It emerges daily from the lips of babes at play and the worship of the youth. It glides on the humming of the mother engrossed in her wash and the missionary at work on a craft. The bilingual renditions remind us that we are all united under the umbrella of Psalm 150:6 “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!”
To bless the Lord is to praise and glorify Him. In the Old Testament David says to all the congregation “now bless the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 29:20) and they express worship through bowing and offering up of sacrifices. We no longer make sacrifices with animals, our mouths release adoration to Him in our periods of elation and our valleys of depression. Regardless of our circumstances, God’s name deserves our utmost in utterances of praise. His worthiness alone is equivalent to ten thousand reasons. It is in these moments of heartfelt expression that we often experience the fruit of His liberation. Yet we must be careful that we do not resign ourselves to lip service, but set our hearts close to God. Our reverence for Him should not be based on taught human rules (Isaiah 29:13) for we do not bless His name by performing a series of arbitrary actions. Instead our hearts must be perfect toward Him and our love for Him propels us to keep His commands.
It is that love which obliges us to feed His sheep and to fill need wherever it may be. It is that love which propels a Pastor’s wife to cook for hundreds of children without complaint. It is that love that obliges us to do what we can to joyously quell hunger. This love causes us never to underestimate the value of an encouraging word, a gentle embrace, a carefully prepared lesson or simply being present. It causes us to make meaningful sacrifices no matter how small. It humbles us to be more than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals; to go when and where we are sent. We are to become all things to all men that some might be saved. It is that love which causes us to look not only to our own interests but also to the interest of others. It is the love with which He first loved us that truly causes us to bless the Lord.