“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:4-5)
The familiar call to worship is jammed with truth. It’s a sardine-can of theological complexity.
First, there’s a call upon our will. The summons is couched in the imperative tense. The Psalmist is saying “Go on in!” and we have to decide for ourselves whether or not to respond.
But obedience, like love, is an act of the will. You can’t wait for a woozy feeling or hang back until you’re in the mood. You have to decide for yourself to go for it.
Go for what? The answer is worship. The spatial references are to the Old Testament Temple with its concept of concentricity. Outside are the “dogs” and pagans. Inside that are the People of God. At the centre of the People is the Temple, and inside that is the Holy Place. And then the Holy of Holies, where God IS. It’s an elaborate metaphor enshrining a simple truth: Go in deeper. Go where God is.
Second, how do you enter? What are the prerequisites of entry? The Psalmist says that it’s a matter of attitude. Jesus told a story about a man who somehow crashed a wedding. When the MC spotted him, he asked why he wasn’t properly dressed and promptly had him slung out.
So are you ready? Are you “dressed” for worship? Annie Hall sang “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” It’s a reasonable beginning! The Psalmist gives us a few more wardrobe tips. You enter “with thanksgiving.” You wear gratitude. That doesn’t mean a fake obsequiousness or servility. It means the sheer pleasure of knowing that you are entirely welcome, entirely forgiven,and entirely loved.
Steve Brown said: “I find myself laughing a lot. Every time I remember that I’m forgiven and loved (that I have unlimited free sins and blank checks), I get the giggles. In fact, Christians are the only people on earth who have something significant to laugh about.”
Now that’s thanksgiving.
And out of that deep gratitude and joyful abandon comes a natural overflow of praise: “Enter …with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” That’s why music is so important, so key to what happens when we come together. When the father saw his prodigal return, he insisted that “We have to celebrate!”
And we have to celebrate too. It requires energy, commitment, skill, authenticity (no faking it!) and total engagement, because all those things are exactly what Jesus brought to the life He lived before His Father.
Enter with gratitude, and let that inner awareness of all that God has done spill and explode into vigorous praise.
And in the very act of authentic giving, you begin to discover more of just who God is. “For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever; and his faithfulness continues…”
The sheer goodness of God (He’s a good good Father) means that He is consistent. He is good, and SO His love endures.And not just for your lifetime, but for endless lifetimes. The word “faithfulness” means stickability.It means powerful loyalty. He will never go back on His word. He has given His word and He will stick to it.”His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
So today, as every day, we hear His call and make our new choice to enter with gratitude and to let the full measure of just who God is come fresh-minted into our pea-sized brains.